Relocating to Spain with your pet from outside the EU

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Moving lock stock and barrel to another country is a serious undertaking and needs plenty of prior planning and preparation, involving the whole family – and that of course includes pets.

In this article we’re going to focus on bringing pets (dogs, cats, ferrets and birds) from non-EU countries – the rules are different if you are relocating with pets to Spain from within the EU.

Travel choices
The first thing to think about is how you are actually going to transport your pet – depending on where you are moving from, you could be looking at air, car, boat, train … so let’s take this step by step:

Air transport
Start planning early as only a few airlines will allow pets in the cabin – this information from IATA gives a great overview.  If it turns out that the only option is to fly Fido in cargo, you should definitely use a pet transport specialist. They will organise everything, including booking the flights, arranging layover accommodation and care if needed, plus all the import and customs formalities.
In the USA,
IPATA , the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, is a good place to start and in the UK there’s a Pet Travel Helpline on +44 370 241 1710, email [email protected]

By sea
There is still one ocean liner that accepts pets on board – Cunard’s Queen Mary II – but be prepared for long wait times (book 18 months in advance) and Fido’s ticket will probably cost more than yours!

Car – self-drive by ferry, train etc
This is your chance to take your furry family member on a road trip (as long as he/she is cool with that of course). A word to the wise that while Eurotunnel and some ferry services have open areas to give your pet some fresh air, not all do. Check the terms and conditions carefully and remember that foot passengers can’t take animals with them and your pet may have to be muzzled. 

You fly, they drive
If you don’t want to put your pet through the stress of flying in cargo, but you’re not intending to drive yourself, then a specialist pet transport company could be the answer. Your pet will travel by road to your destination and most companies can offer kennel  facilities if your timings prove a challenge. There are plenty of companies offering this service between the UK and Spain.

Pet paperwork
So, you’ve decided how you are going to get your pet from A to B, now it’s time to organise the paperwork. The basic principles are the same for all non-EU countries that are not on a rabies warning list (e.g. USA, United Arab Emirates, Australia, UK except Northern Ireland). This is what each pet will need:

  1. At least 12 weeks old (so they can have rabies vaccine)
  2. Microchip – ISO compliant chip, all info recorded on documentation.
  3. All vaccinations fully up to date INCLUDING RABIES, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, leptospirosis and ideally kennel cough
  4. Vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days prior to travel (not more than 1 year prior)
  5. Animal Health Certificate (AHC) (MSWord document) issued by an Official Veterinarian (OV) in at least English and Spanish – you have 10 days from the issue of the AHC to reach your EU destination, then it is valid for 4 months and covers your return to your home country.
  6. Enter Spain through a designated point of entry and complete the Customs paperwork.

This page on the MAPA website (Spanish equivalent of UK’s DEFRA or USDA in the USA)  has all the details plus downloadable forms.

The OV should complete all the forms to produce the Pet Passport and we’d also recommend including a photo of your pet for ease of identification.

When you arrive at your destination
Register at a local vet to get the chip updated and some Town Halls ask you to register your dog with them as well.

Good to Know
No dog breeds are banned in Spain, but some breeds are known as PPP “Perros Potencialmente Peligrosos” or “potentially dangerous dogs” and the list varies between autonomous communities, but basically comprises these breeds and crosses:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasilero
  • Tosa Inu
  • Akita Inu
  • Dobermann (Valencia and Andalusía)
  • Bull Mastiff, Dogo de Burdeos, Presa Canaria/Mallorquin and Mastin Napolitano (Valencia)

There are also physical characteristics that could lead to your dog being classed as PPP, even though it might not be on the breed list.

The Spanish government has recently introduced new animal protection laws so that no specific breed is “discriminated against” – instead, the plan is to evaluate each dog individually. It’s likely to take a while to roll out these changes so for the time being, if your dog is listed, then you’ll need to get them registered.

Limit on number of pets per household
While there is no general law across Spain limiting the number of pets you can keep in your home, towns and municipalities can make rules for themselves. For example, Murcia city allows a maximum of three dogs or cats in urban homes, or five in rural buildings while Salamanca and Granada only allow three in urban homes. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that when relocating, you are only supposed to bring a maximum of five pets (dogs/cats/birds) with you.

Exchange your UK pet passport for an EU one
Although UK pet passports aren’t accepted in the EU anymore, EU pet passports are accepted in the UK (go figure). So if you are planning to return to the UK with your pet at any point in the future, it makes a lot of sense to swap to a Spanish pet passport and then they can come and go without having to get an AHC every time. Please note than in some areas of Spain, only residents can have an EU pet passport.

The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last updated 10.08.2022

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