MORE THAN 8,000 people have signed a petition calling on Serco NorthLink to introduce a small number of pet-friendly cabins on board its passenger vessels.
The petition was only launched on Monday and has been adding signatures at a ferocious pace, reaching 8,222 in the space of 48 hours.
NorthLink responded by saying it would review on-board pet facilities to “determine if changes can be made without impacting on other passengers”.
Brae woman Emma Jarvie said she decided to start the petition after getting nowhere with asking the ferry operator to address the issue.
The petition states that the kennels on board the ferries are “like dungeons, unfit for the pets we love so much”, as well as being “loud, smelly and uncomfortable”.
“More and more hotels are becoming pet friendly,” Emma wrote. “Pets are allowed in cabins on overnight train journeys, and they should be allowed on overnight journeys too.”
The 26 year old, who works at Sullom Voe, stressed she was only asking NorthLink to make “a few” cabins pet-friendly, not all of them.
Emma said she wanted to do something after enduring an unpleasant experience when she went to collect her puppy, Louie, from Newcastle back in January.
After driving back to Aberdeen to catch the ferry home, she spent the day at the ferry terminal and put the pug dog in the kennels.
“I’d not been in the kennels, because I just think they’re disgusting and I’ve heard stories of dogs getting kennel cough.”
Staff had previously told her she’d be able to check on Louie and take him up onto the deck if he needed to pee during the journey.
“I got him settled in, went and had something to eat, and then asked if there were set times,” she said. “They said they were too busy that night, that there weren’t enough staff, so I wasn’t allowed to see him.”
Then, having been promised she could go and collect the dog at 7am half an hour ahead of arrival, she was told she had to wait until all foot passengers had left the ship before collecting him.
“It was 8.10am before they even let me down. It was his first time away from his mum, he was unsettled, he was in the corner shivering and crying. He looked absolutely traumatised.”
Emma felt it took Louie longer to settle in as a result, and she has spoken to many other people who share her frustration.
“Nobody has a good thing to say about the kennels,” she said. “People have emailed before, they said they’d look into how they could improve the kennels, and nothing has ever happened.
“I’m not saying all the cabins – even four cabins would probably make a difference for the amount of times people travel.
“The noise of those kennels – somebody who was travelling with a cat said the dogs were sitting barking at the cat and it was absolutely petrified.”
A NorthLink spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that dog owners do not wish to be separated from their pets during their journey and we are continually reviewing customer feedback and our on board facilities.
“We will review the pet facilities on board and determine if changes can be made without impacting on other passengers.”