Animals on board with Dr. Harry

Animals on board with Dr. Harry

When Seven announced Animals on board with Dr. Harry at his Upfronts last year, it seemed like a pretty smart idea.

They look like pets and airports Border security meet The dog house. Plus animal shows are everywhere right now (there are two of them this week alone).

This series of observations showcases four stories linking Australia, Great Britain and Austria. Seven’s favorite (current) vet is the narrator of the series bringing much of his experience into the format of Banijay.

At the heart of the series is a Melbourne-based animal transport company, with links to international couriers, but which makes me think this could be branded content.

In the first episode, you’ll meet Brits Shaun and Marian who moved 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 centers on the dog being able to make the 22+ hour journey. Heck, I know a lot of people who struggle with the idea, let alone being crated in cargo.

There are expats Jane and Paul wanting to bring home 7 – count them, 7 – cats to Perth. This involves all sorts of tests and 10 days of quarantine in Melbourne. As they set off on their journey, securely strapped into their cat cages, we’re reminded that “cats are escape artists.”

In Adelaide, zookeeper Kathryn must transport her young giraffe Azzizi to Monarto Safari Park before it matures and interbreeds.

“We really don’t want him to ride his sister,” she reveals. Thanks for that. You saw the timeslot, didn’t you? A New Zealand show just had a broadcast violation cut short for showing dolphins mating, even though it’s completely natural….

Moving this beast into Australia’s only giraffe trailer isn’t easy, especially coaxing the animal into – then out – the carrier.

There is a fourth story about a Melbourne mum who surprises her 13-year-old daughter with a new puppy transported from Tasmania.

“Are you excited,” an airline staffer asks the dog before he boards his flight. He looks pretty petrified to me.

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

It is certainly interesting to learn about animal load and biosecurity, and needs will no doubt vary from species to species. But the cameras don’t tell us enough about the journey. How are the animals fed during a 22-hour flight? What about the needs of the toilet? We also skip the quarantine part. I wonder if devoted owners would still submit their pets to us if they saw the reality of the hold?

There’s also the expense it entails, revealed by a story. But does that mean casting is limited to wealthy owners who spend sheer fortunes on pampered pets? I think so…

Finally, Dr. Harry Cooper never appears on camera. His seniority is inevitable 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 it ended with an on-camera introduction and farewell at a nearby airport.

But Animals on board it’s still a good idea as a format, it hits the right notes and should find a familiar audience easily.

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