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Travelling with your pet dog via train(IRCTC) in India...(Intercity travel with Chetak, the German Shepherd.) Part 1/n-Ticket & Coupe booking

If your pet is very young i.e a puppy/kitten etc, who can travel with you in a small basket & you take proper care of your pet, then you & your pet can travel together in a train however, there is some constraint about the maximum permissible weight of your pet. You will need to inquire about it with the authorities...

If I begin by saying traveling from one city to another in India with your medium-sized or giant breed dogs like the German Shepherd whom you love as a family member is an arduous task thanks to the senseless rules of IRCTC, it will be an understatement.

Let's start with the ticket & coupe booking. I am only talking about how difficult it is or how unfriendly the rules are for the pet & the owner who wants to travel with his pet with him in the same coach & not siphon off the poor soul in the dark, stinking, unhygienic luggage van. How difficult & stressful it can get for your dear pet is something that's totally beyond words. The English language is deprived of words/adjectives to express the sentiments & trauma of the poor creatures.

I will give an account of a 2 seater coupe booking at Bombay Central I did while traveling from Bombay to Delhi. It was a harrowing experience.

I had gathered this info that if you book the travel of your pet in the luggage van which is a closed, dark, non-ventilated, dirty, ill-kept coach your pet may not even reach its destination in a fine state. In some cases, pets get robbed or they suffocate & don't even reach their destination alive. Hence it's much better to travel with your pet by your side in the same coach which is only possible when you book a coupe(cabin) in the 1st class AC compartment. You can get a coupe when you book at least 2 or 4 seats as there are only 2 seater or 4 seater coupes

I started enquiring & running around more than a week before the travel date to confirm a coupe booking in my name against the 2 seats I booked in the First AC of Rajdhani Express. Harrowing is a soft word to explain the experience. 

The procedure is that you have to submit an application with your PNR number & photo id proof at the main station, Churchgate-in my case. In this application, you need to explain why do you need a coupe- a separate doored personal cabin? You can address it to the Chief Station Officer, submit it from 2-3 days before journey date up to 2 hours before the seating chart of your train is out on the date of the journey. You will get a ticket for your pet dog at Bombay Central only, that too couple of hours before your journey begins. You cannot board the train at Borivali which could be nearer to your home & easily accessible compared to Bombay Central- I was told this explicitly by the person who would issue my German Shepherd, Chetak's ticket, at a later date. The staff will first check if you have been allotted a coupe & then give you your pet's ticket. This makes your pet eligible to enter the train(Rajdhani Express train no. 12951 in my case), with you.

The farcical content of this scene is even after you have submitted an application, you are NOT guaranteed a coupe. The logic which the IRCTC authorities gave me was if any MLC, MLA, MP(politicians) etc are traveling on the same day, they will be given a preferential allotment of the coupe. The preposterousness does not stop here. You will only get to know whether you have been allotted a coupe or not once the seating chart is out i.e 3-4 hours before the start of the journey. Once the chart is out, you can cancel your journey, but you are not entitled for a refund if you cancel your tickets. You could be on your way from home to the boarding station with your pet dog as you need to reach there 2 hours before the departure time to complete some formalities. Thus your trip from home to the station with your pet could be totally futile courtesy some foolish rules being followed by IRCTC- the Indian Railways system.

Let me add, the vet whom Chetak, my German Shepherd has been visiting since more than 3 years, told me I would need a fitness certificate to travel. He said he will charge INR 400 to 500 to issue a fitness certificate!!! What the hell? He was talking about the same fitness certificate which we used to present in school/college when we used to stay at home to watch a cricket match, go to attend wedding ceremonies, receive a friend/relative from airport/station etc. It used to be given free of cost by our family doctor, isn't it? The vet was treating Chetak(for vaccination, deworming, supplements etc) since I got him home when he was a 30-day old puppy, should he be charging me just to scribble 3-4 lines on a piece of paper? Was it ethical?

The anxiety caused by the uncertainty in getting a coupe was killing. Imagine, you could be traveling alone with your pet dog from one city to another. But to get a coupe you have booked another seat(which will remain vacant) just to be eligible for a 2 seater coupe booking as in my case & because of some idiotic rule implemented by IRCTC you are never sure whether you will be able to even start the journey with your furry friend...

Ultimately with repeated follow-ups, some pyrotechnics & dramatics, we got a coupe booked, a ticket for Chetak, my German Shepherd was issued & we started our journey. 

I have attached the ticket issued for my pet & a video link when we just entered the Rajdhani Express train. More about the journey after the journey started, I will possibly write later...

I believe the IRCTC should not be so myopic when dealing with people traveling with their pets.


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