Moving to a foreign country with your pet requires proper planning. If you want to travel to Spain, regardless of the duration of your trip, it is best to check in advance the laws and regulations regarding the importation of pets. Legally, only dogs, cats and ferrets are considered household pets in Spain. Other specific regulations apply to the importation of birds and other animals. Rare or endangered species are prohibited from entering the country as pets.
You can get more information about the legal requirements surrounding the importation of pets to Spain from Ministry of Agriculture, Fish and Food.
First of all, your pet, be it a dog, a cat or a ferret, must be at least 15 weeks old. They must be vaccinated against rabies and have a blood test to check that the vaccine has been effective.The Spanish government does not authorise the entry of animals under 12 weeks because prior to this they won’t yet have received their rabies vaccination.
A maximum of five pets per person can travel to Spain, otherwise the rules for trade in animals will apply. The exceptions to this rule are in cases of competitions, exhibitions, training or sporting events.
To travel to Spain, your pet must also:
- Have a European passport for the movement of pets indicating its owner and clearly identifying the animal along with a description of its markings.
- Be vaccinated against rabies with a vaccine valid at the time of travel. The date on which the vaccine was administered must be included in the passport. Keep in mind that your pet is not authorised to travel within 21 days after the rabies vaccination. Given that the minimum age to vaccinate animals will be 12 weeks, dogs, cats and ferrets must be at least 15 weeks old before they can travel to Spain.
- Be microchip or tattooed (if this was done before 07/03/2011) and as long as it remains clearly legible.
Your pet will have to undergo a blood test to determine the effectiveness of the rabies vaccine at least 30 days after the date of vaccination and no less than three months before the date of travel. The test must be done by an authorised veterinarian and in an approved laboratory.
The following describes the step-by-step process for obtaining each of the three documents you will need – the vaccination certificate, a veterinary health certificate and a sanitary export permit:
To begin, the pet must be reviewed by a licensed veterinarian and the corresponding certification issued by the appropriate professional association. The aim of the consultation is to assess the general health status of the pet, apply the rabies vaccine and deworm the animal. The veterinarian must issue a certificate of vaccination (against rabies and other illnesses) and an international health certificate for dogs and cats.
Certificate of vaccination
This document for dogs and cats, issued by the veterinarian, contains the following information.
- The owner’s information (name and address).
- Data on vaccination against rabies (place and date of application, type of vaccine, name of laboratory and commercial brand of vaccine, as well as the of veterinarian)
- Specification of the duration of immunity; otherwise, it will be considered valid for one year.
- Identification number of the animal (tattoo, medal or electronic chip).
- Country of origin of the animal and countries in which the animal has resided in the last 2 years.
- Results of the serological test applied to the animal (blood sample), including the laboratory data where it was practiced.
- Results of the clinical examination performed by the veterinarian.
International health certificate
A valid health certificate issued by an authorised veterinarian. The health certificate should not only mention the basic information about your pet, such as its name, breed, age, colour, etc., but also your name, address and telephone number. Keep in mind that the documents must be presented upon arrival in Spain and therefore must be accompanied by a Spanish translation.
Sanitary export permit
This is a very important document, because without it, the animal will not get permission to board an airplane, even if you have already purchased its ticket. It must be presented at the port of departure (airport) before the customs authorities. This document is usually issued by the highest authority of agriculture and farming in the country of departure, which is usually the government department of agriculture.
Finally, it is also required that your pet be implanted with a microchip containing information identifying the animal and the owner. The microchip must comply with ISO standards 11784 and 11785, which allow, among other advantages, that the information can be decoded by any reader. In case the microchip does not comply with these standards, the owner must provide a reader that allows the microchip to be read at the port of entry in Spain.
Requirements for traveling by plane with pets
It is advisable to review the airlines requirements before booking your flights, as each has its own rules and standards for the transport of pets. Most, however, have the following minimum requirements:
- All animals must travel in transport cages, which must be leak-proof and well ventilated. No part of the animal can be left outside the cage.
- Small pets (generally of the weight and size, including the cage, equivalent to what is considered as hand luggage) can travel with the passenger, staying in their cage under the seat in front of you.
- Pets of a size and weight greater than the equivalent of hand luggage can travel in the luggage compartment.
- Only dogs or cats are allowed to be transported as hand luggage or as luggage. Other types of animals, including insects and reptiles, can travel as cargo.
- Pets must register with the airline in advance of the trip.
When the animal meets all the requirements listed, the airline proceeds to grant the owner a boarding pass, with which the animal obtains its right to travel.
In the event that you are travelling with a guide dog or assistance dog, the animal may board with you at no additional charge and may travel in the cabin with you in the place indicated by the crew.
Transporting other animals to Spain
If you plan to import other animals (such as companion birds from non-European countries), you must comply with the specific regulations established by the Spanish authorities. Your bird must have a veterinary health certificate and an official declaration from the owner, translated into Spanish. Depending on your country of origin, you may have to get vaccinated against bird flu to avoid being quarantined.
A note on rules regarding the ownership of ‘dangerous animals’ in Spain
There are eight breeds of dogs that are considered ‘dangerous animals’ under Spanish law. These include: Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros, Tosa Inus, and Akita Inus. Crosses of these breeds are also considered dangerous.
Therefore, to be able to have one of these dogs as a pet, you must meet a series of requirements, such as “being of legal age or not having been convicted of crimes of murder, injury, torture, crimes against public health, association with an armed gang or drug trafficking, as well as not being deprived by judicial resolution of the right to the possession of potentially dangerous animals.”
In addition, the owner of a dog considered potentially dangerous must have third-party liability insurance. Whenever you take a dog considered potentially dangerous out on the street, it must be kept in a non-extendable strap that does not exceed two meters and you must carry the permit that proves that you are allowed to have that pet.
When travelling with a pet it is a good idea to take out insurance.
Pet insurance can cover much of the expense of unexpected vet bills in case of an injury or illness, so the things you need to consider when choosing pet insurance should include questions such as:
- Does the policy cover all chronic, congenital and hereditary conditions?
- Is there a time limit on treatment per condition?
- Is there a price limit on treatment per condition?
- Are there flexible coverage options to fit your budget and needs exactly?
- How well established is the company? How is it rated?
If you’re looking into taking out a pet insurance policy after moving to Spain, you can either go direct to providers or use a price comparison website.
Finally, a note on travelling with pets in Spain
If you want to travel with animals within Spain, the national rail company, Renfe, allows pets to travel on medium and long distance trains so long as they weigh less than 10kg and are kept in their carrier. On short distance services and metros, you can travel without any additional cost, but dogs must be on with a leash and muzzled.