Animals Aboard with Dr Harry

Animals are reunited with devoted owners in a new series where the destination is more crucial than the journey.

When Seven announced Animals Aboard with Dr Harry at its Upfronts last year, it struck me as a pretty smart idea.

Pets and airports sounds like Border Security meets The Dog House. Besides animal shows are everywhere right now (there are two launching this week alone).

This observational series showcases four stories linking Australia, Britain and Austria. Seven’s (current) favourite vet is narrator for the series bringing plenty of his experience to the format by Banijay.

Central to the series is a Melbourne-based animal transportation company, with links to international carriers, but which makes me feel like this could be branded content.

In the first episode you’ll meet Brits Shaun and Marian who relocated to Melbourne after the pandemic to be with family, but who have two dogs including Lily, a 14 year old Labrador. The cost? Try $20,000 -ouch!

Much of the story centres around whether the pooch can make the 22+hr trip. Heck, I know plenty of people who struggle with the idea, let alone being caged in cargo.

There’s expats Jane and Paul who want to bring home 7 -count them, 7- cats to Perth. This involves all kinds of tests and 10 days quarantine in Melbourne. As they are set off on their trek, strapped solidly into their cat cages we are reminded “cats are escape artists.”

In Adelaide zookeeper Kathryn needs to transport her young buck giraffe Azzizi to Monarto Safari Park before he matures and interbreeds.

“We really don’t want him mounting his sister,” she reveals. Thanks for that. You’ve seen the timeslot, right? A NZ show just copped a broadcasting breach for showing dolphins mating, even though its entirely natural….

Moving this beast in the only giraffe trailer in Australia is not easy, especially coaxing the animal -then out- of the carrier.

There’s a fourth story around a Melbourne mum surprising her 13 year old daughter with a new puppy transported from Tasmania.

“Are you excited,” an airline staff asks the dog before it embarks on the flight. It looks pretty petrified to me.

The show paints warm and fuzzy portraits of the families looking to reunite with pets, and are there for the owner and pet are elated at the end of the trip. Human stories are essential for this kind of emotion.

It’s certainly interesting to learn about animal cargo, and the biosecurity and needs will doubtless vary from species to species. But the cameras don’t quite tell us enough about the journey. How are animals fed on a 22 hour flight? What about toilet needs? We also skip the Quarantine portion. I wonder if devoted owners would still put their pets through it if they saw the realites of cargo hold?

There is also the expense entailed, which one story revealed. But does that mean the casting is confined to affluent owners spending absolute fortunes on pampered pets? I guess so…

Lastly Dr. Harry Cooper never appears on camera. His seniority is unavoidable in his delivery, but never his experience or character. It’s a shame he wasn’t there for the odd pet reunion, or at least book-ended with an on camera introduction and farewell at a nearby airport.

But Animals Aboard is nonetheless a good idea as a format, hits the right notes and should easily find a family audience.

Animals Aboard with Dr Harry airs 7:30pm Wednesday on Seven.

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