Ask Me Anything: How Do I Take My Dog to Europe?

Dec 11, 2017    /    luna the traveling pooch, most popular posts

Pre-P.S. Going to Europe? I made something for you.

Welcome to Ask Me Anything—a new series here on the blog where I invite you to send me your questions (anything from dog travel to freelancing to “where should I go on my trip?”) and I do my best to answer based on six years of full-time travel experience, 15 years as a writer, and seven years as a freelancer.

Have a pressing question? Send it over.

And now, today’s question:

Please talk about getting a dog into Europe (reality of what paperwork needed versus what we can read about) and mostly though about finding lodging/taxis, etc. with a dog. Thanks. – Kate

Let’s start by talking about paperwork.

First, it’s important to note that the requirements for taking a dog to Europe vary depending on where you’re coming from. Taking a dog from South Africa to Italy is a very different thing than taking a dog from the US or Canada.

For the purposes of this answer, I’ll assume you’re asking about the requirements for going from the US to Europe. But if you’re coming from somewhere else, know that you’ll need to do a little more research. Countries with a high rabies risk require a different set of paperwork and may require quarantine.

For those going from US to Europe (or Canada to Europe), the first step is to get your dog microchipped with an international standard microchip. Luna’s is via HomeAgain. The vet inserts the microchip into your dog’s neck in a super quick, easy out-patient procedure. You’ll need to do this ahead of time because the microchip insert has to happen before the most recent rabies shot.

Luna in Bosnia

Next, you’ll need to get your dog a rabies shot. Every European country I’ve flown into recognizes the three-year rabies vaccine (with the exception of the UK), but it’s always good to check. Some parts of the world only recognize rabies vaccines for a single year before requiring a booster. When you get your rabies certificate from the vet, ask for a second copy and have the vet hand-sign both copies. It’s not always necessary, but it never hurts to have a backup and have both signed.

This needs to happen at least four weeks before you head to Europe, so plan ahead.

Your dog should also be up-to-date on his other essential vaccinations (DHLPP), so when you get the rabies booster, check with your vet to make sure you’re totally up to date.

Once you have those two things (microchip and vaccinations), for most countries (with the exception of UK, Sweden, and Norway), it just comes down to paperwork, which has to be completed by your vet usually within 10 days of travel.

Make an appointment at a USDA-certified vet (you can call your vet and ask if they’re USDA certified) and tell them where you’ll be arriving. If your first stop is Italy, they’ll have to fill out the health forms with Italian/English and if you’re stopping first in France, you’ll need the French/English form. Your USDA-certified vet should know where to get the latest forms. If not, you probably need to call a different vet.

Luna with waterfalls

Ask your vet to email you the paperwork so that you can make sure you have all the details he or she needs to fill in. It’ll be things like the date of your last rabies vaccine, the import address (where you’ll be staying when you arrive in Europe), the export address (your home address), etc.

Once the paperwork is all filled out, you’ll need to take it to your local USDA veterinary office for approval and a stamp. Before you make your vet appointment, it’s a good idea to call your local office and ask about their process–because each one is a little different. I’ve been to offices that dealt with pet paperwork on a first-come, first-served basis between certain hours and also dealt with offices that required an appointment. They all charge a fee and some only accept cash while others take checks. Some may allow you to send your paperwork by mail. It’s always a good idea to check with your specific office ahead of time.

Once you have your papers stamped by the USDA, make copies (to keep safe in your other bag) and keep the original copy and one of the original copies of your rabies certificates on hand for travel. This is what customs will want to see when you arrive in Europe.

Chad and Luna

For most European countries, that’s it.

Microchip. Up-to-date vaccines. Paperwork filled out by your vet and stamped by the USDA within 10 days of travel.

It can sound daunting, but it’s actually not too tricky. That said, do make sure to check the requirements for the specific country you’re visiting, as a couple European countries (most notably the UK, Sweden, and Norway) have additional requirements.

Now, once you have a good understanding of the paperwork, the other thing you’ll need to do is figure out flights. Not every airline accepts dogs and all the airlines have somewhat different rules. Before you book a flight, check with your airline of choice to find out:

:: Do they allow dogs?

:: Do they allow small dogs in cabin?

:: If so, what’s the maximum weight allowed in cabin (and is that for the dog or the dog + carrier)?

:: What are their requirements for dog carriers?

:: How many in-cabin dogs are allowed on your flight? Is there space for your pooch? Can you book the dog ahead?

If you’re traveling with a dog too large to travel in cabin, you’ll need to know about carrier requirements for the hold, whether they have space for your dog, and how good their reputation is for transporting animals.

Now, to the second part of your question: Once you arrive in Europe, traveling with a dog is crazy easy.

Most trains and buses are dog-friendly (though you’ll need to check requirements by country; some may require a muzzle for your dog to travel on public transport and others may require you to buy your dog a special ticket). I’ve heard of people with larger dogs having trouble finding a dog-friendly taxi, but I’ve never personally had a taxi take issue with Luna (though she’s small and rides in my lap or her carrier).

For accommodations, I simply ask before I book. Can you take a small, non-shedding, therapy-trained pooch? A good 90% of the time, the answer is yes.

Dogs are also welcome in shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and parks in most of Europe. Just watch for no-dogs signs and respect those when you see them (which isn’t often).

The big exceptions to this dog-friendly culture are Spain, the UK, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These places tend to run much less dog-friendly (though in some ways still more dog-friendly than the US). UK doesn’t allow dogs in restaurants. Spain’s buses will force you to put Fido in the baggage area (uh, no, Spain. So much no.). And in Bosnia expect strangers to (very rudely) stomp their feet at your dog and jump theatrically away from her as she walks down the street.

But those are exceptions to the rule. And the rule in Europe is this:

Dogs welcome.

Have a question about dogs in Europe? Toss it in the comments.

Have another question you’d like to have me tackle? Let me know.

Going to Europe?

Check out my series of local-centric guidebooks.

Italy: 100 Locals France: 100 Locals Switzerland: 100 Locals

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  • Pamela
    December 11, 2017

    One of my dreams is to take my dog to Europe. It’s one reason I bought a bluewater sailboat. Unfortunately she has defeated me by refusing to eliminate on board.

    But I still live in hope that I’ll get to use this info someday. ;)

    • gigigriffis
      December 11, 2017

      Yes! Luna won’t pee indoors/what she considers indoors either, no matter what I do. I’ve been trying to train her on pee pads with no good results.

  • Kate Green
    December 11, 2017

    This is awesome and exactly the information and support I was hoping for. THANKS so much. We are heading to Europe in March with Darwin the beagle so planning now:)


    • gigigriffis
      December 11, 2017

      No prob!

  • Kristen
    December 11, 2017

    This is so helpful! I never would have imagined the process so easy. Wow.

    • gigigriffis
      December 11, 2017

      So glad to be a help! Yeah – Europe is super simple and even easier once you get there.

  • Deb
    December 11, 2017

    I acquired my Scottish Terrier in Spain. You are right, Spain is not so open to dogs, but a little better on the northern coast. I’ve alwys been able to find apartments and hotels to take us. I was able to travel by train with her in a carrier under the seat. (there is less space in seats facing each other so book accordingly.) We also travelled as foot passenger on a ferry between Barcelona and Italy. Rules said she had to wear a muzzle on deck and stay in their kennel for which I reserved and paid for. But once I got on board those restrictions were not expected. The porter escorted us to our stateroom and said she could stay there.
    I wanted to take a bus from Trieste Spain to Zagreb Croatia but they wouldn’t accept a dog so I ended up with a $200 car service.

    My dog is just over the weight limit for in cabin plane travel. Do you know if airlines are likely to weigh the dog and crate?

    • gigigriffis
      December 11, 2017

      Every time I’ve flown within Europe, they’ve always weighed Luna, so unfortunately I think the odds they’ll weigh your dog are good. Perhaps it’d be worth researching a variety of airlines and see if they’re all sticklers?

  • Ellen
    December 12, 2017

    We live in London and fly fairly frequently with our dog. I’ve flown with him on Brussels and Swiss and the impression I get from people is that most, if not all, European airlines will weigh the dog. United doesn’t if you are traveling trans-atlantic. I’ve heard Norwegian honors emotional support animals even for intra-Europe flights.

    PS If you are ever in the UK again, you can have dogs in restaurants. The health code simply prevents dogs from being in food preparation areas. That being said, dogs are more readily accepted in pubs, coffee shops, cafes, and other casual restaurants. Unlike Italy, the prevalent culture is that dogs (and children) shouldn’t go out for nice meals. However, in London, you can bring them into fancier places depending on the neighborhood. There is a 1 michelin star Italian restaurant that is dog friendly. And in our neighborhood in London the majority of restaurants are dog friendly.

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