In the not-too-distant past, it was extremely difficult to bring a dog, or any pet, into Europe. The process usually involved having the family pet vaccinated against disease (particularly rabies) and spending a considerable period of time in quarantine.
Nowadays, however, the rules and regulations regarding dogs entering any of the European Union countries, and travelling through the European arena, have been simplified and visitors to any of the EU or Schengen Area member states wishing to bring a family pet on the journey can do so with relative ease.
The EU guidelines regarding pets accompanying visitors apply to travel between EU countries as well as to those arriving from a non-EU country and cover dogs, cats and even ferrets.
There are certain requirements that must be met when traveling between EU and Schengen Area countries with pets, and they may vary depending on the country of origin. Some requirements apply to all travelers, while others are specific to those arriving from a non-EU state.
These requirements include:
- Proof of rabies vaccination
- Being micro-chipped according to EU Regulation on pet movement (or identification tattoo pre-July 2011)
- European pet passport when travelling from one EU country to another.
- Pets coming into Europe from a non-EU country should have an animal health certificate instead of a European pet passport.
Some European countries also require dogs to have been treated against tapeworm. These are countries that are free from tapeworm and include Norway, Malta, Finland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Just as their human owners require documentation to travel (passport, ETIAS, Schengen Visa) to and within the European Union, dogs and other pets require paperwork. Along with any proof of rabies vaccination (and possible tapeworm treatment), dogs must also have either a European pet passport or animal health certificate.
European Pet Passport
This is a standard EU document and is mandatory for pets travelling between European Union member states. The pet passport contains:
- Detailed description of the animal and any other relevant details
- Microchip code (or the identification tattoo number where applicable)
- Details of vaccination record against rabies
- Owner’s contact details
- Contact details for veterinarian issuing the pet passport
A pet passport can be issued by any authorised and approved veterinarian and remains valid for the life of the animal once the vaccination against rabies is still up to date. The EU pet passport is available in any of the EU member states but can also be issued in some non-EU countries including Switzerland, Greenland, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Andorra, Norway, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland.
Note: When Britain was still a member of the European Union it also issued EU pet certificates but can no longer do so as a result of Brexit. Consequently, EU pet passports issued in the United Kingdom are no longer valid as of January 2021 and an EU animal health certificate is required instead.
EU Animal Health Certificate
Very similar to the EU pet passport, but for pets arriving in the EU from a non-EU country, is the EU animal health certificate. This certificate covers the same requirements as the pet passport regarding rabies vaccinations and the animal’s health status.
The certificate must be issued by a recognised state veterinarian no more than ten days prior to arrival in Europe, is valid for four months, and covers travel between any of the EU member states unless the rabies vaccination happens to expire within this time which would render the certificate invalid.
The animal health certificate must be accompanied by a declaration stating the pet’s travel is not for commercial purposes and the written declaration is also necessary if the pet is accompanied by anyone other than the owner of record.
Rabies and Tapeworm
Two of the biggest concerns regarding dogs entering the European Union are rabies and tapeworm.
Cases of rabies in humans across Europe are extremely rare with an annual count of under ten since 2017 and these have been in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania. The main carriers are red foxes although some cases have also been detected in Arctic foxes on the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen and in the Svalbard archipelago.
Despite the low cases numbers and the rarity of the disease, EU authorities are concerned about the potential devastating effects of the disease spreading. This is why all dogs entering the European arena must be vaccinated against the disease and the vaccination process must follow certain strict protocols:
- The vaccination must be done by authorised veterinarians only
- The pet must be twelve weeks old or more
- The pet must be micro-chipped prior to vaccination
- The pet cannot enter the EU until three weeks have elapsed after vaccination
As is always the case, there are exceptions to the rules. Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Czechia do not require young pets under twelve weeks old to have been vaccinated against rabies. The same applies to those aged from twelve to sixteen weeks that have been vaccinated but have not yet become immune to the disease. In such cases, however, some European countries require that the pet passport or health certificate has an attached declaration stating the animal has not been in contact with any wild animals known to be susceptible to rabies from its birth to the date of travel to Europe.
These exceptions are rare and the vast majority of EU countries make no allowance for these circumstances. It is always better to assume that such exceptions do not apply unless completely certain that the country (or countries) being visited make such allowances.
Currently there are five European countries that require dogs to have undergone treatment against tapeworm before entering their jurisdiction and these are:
- Republic of Ireland
- Northern Ireland
Dogs travelling between these countries are not required to have had tapeworm treatment but all others should have received such care between one and five days before the date of travel. The treatment must be carried out by a recognised professional and all details should be laid out in the dog’s EU pet passport or health certificate.
Putting dogs into quarantine before or after travel is no longer required but can happen if the owner fails to comply with all entry requirements. Arriving in the European Union with a dog that has not been vaccinated against rabies (or had tapeworm treatment) will result in the animal having to be quarantined.
The owner is responsible for booking the dog’s accommodation and all related costs. Quarantine will usually last for twenty-one days but can be longer as this is subject to the animal satisfying all entry requirements. Such incidences of quarantining are rare but owners should be aware of the consequences of failing to comply with EU regulations regarding bringing dogs (and other pets) into Europe.
The rules governing pet entry to Europe are fairly standard and applicable across the European Union and Schengen Area member states. Pleading ignorance of the regulations will not exempt a traveller and his pet from the consequences of breaking them. Placing a pet into quarantine is a very likely outcome of failure to comply with the rules and even returning the animal to its point of departure can also be an option for the authorities.
While it is certainly easier to bring a pet into Europe today than in previous years, there are rules that need to be followed and intending visitors wishing to bring a dog or other pet to Europe should make themselves aware of any specific conditions that may apply in the destination country.