Pets in Spain

How to bring your pet to Spain
If you plan to take a pet to Spain,it’s important to check the latest regulations.Make sure that you have the correct papers, not only for Spain,but for all the countries you will pass through to reach Spain.Particular consideration must be given before exporting a pet from a country with strict quarantine regulations,such as the UK.

A maximum of five pets may accompany a traveller to Spain.All dogs,cats and ferrets must have a microchip or registration number tattooed in an ear before they enter Spain.A rabies vaccination is usually compulsory,although this doesn’t apply to accompanied pets (including dogs and cats) coming directly from the UK.

However,if a rabies vaccination is given,it must be administered not less than one month or more than one year before export.A rabies vaccination is necessary if pets are transported by road from the UK to Spain via France.Pets over three months old from countries other than the UK must have been vaccinated against rabies not less than one month and not more than one year before being imported.If a pet has no rabies certificate it can be quarantined for 20 days.Pets under three months old cannot be imported into Spain.

An official certificate ( Certificado de Origen y Sanidad) is required,which must be filled in and signed by a vet.The certificate includes the owner’s details,a description of the pet,the microchip number and where and when it was inserted,and the date of the rabies vaccination.The certificate is in Spanish and English and is valid for four months after it has been signed.Some animals require a special import permit from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and pets from some countries are subject to customs duty.

British Regulations
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS–now under the auspices of the EU pet passport scheme) replaces quarantine for qualifying cats and dogs.Under the scheme,pets must be micro-chipped (they have a microchip inserted in their neck),vaccinated against rabies,undergo a blood test and be issued with a health certificate (passport).Note that the PETS certificate/ EU pet passport sometimes isn’t issued until six months AFTER the above have been carried out!In the UK,EU pet passports are issued by Local Veterinary Inspectors (LVI) only.In other EU countries, passports are issued by all registered vets.

The scheme is restricted to animals imported from rabies-free countries and countries where rabies is under control–22 European countries plus Bahrain,Canada and the US.However,the current quarantine law will remain in place for pets coming from Eastern Europe,Africa (including the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla).Asia and South America.To qualify,pets must travel by sea via any major British ferry port,by train via the Channel Tunnel or via Bristol,Doncaster,London Gatwick,London Heathrow or Manchester airports.Only certain carriers are licensed to carry animals and these are listed on the Department for Environment,Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

British pet owners must complete an Application for a Ministry Export Certificate for dogs,cats and rabies susceptible animals (form EXA1),available from DEFRA at the above address.DEFRA contacts the vet you’ve named on the form and he performs a health inspection.You then receive an export health certificate,which must be issued no more than 30 days before your entry into Spain with your pet..

General Information
If you’re transporting a pet to Spain by boat,you should notify the ferry company.Some companies insist that pets are left in vehicles (if applicable),while others allow pets to be kept in cabins.If your pet is of nervous disposition or unused to travelling,it’s best to tranquillise it on a long sea crossing. A pet can also be shipped to Spain by air.Animals are permitted to travel to most airports in Spain.

If you intend to live permanently in Spain,most veterinary surgeons ( veterinarios) recommend that you have a dog vaccinated against rabies before arrival.Dogs should also be vaccinated against leptospirosis, parvovirus,hepatitis, distemper and kennel cough,and cats immunised against feline enteritis and typhus.Note that there are a number of diseases and dangers for pets in Spain that aren’t found in most other European countries.These include the fatal leishmaniasis (also called Mediterranean or sandfly disease),processionary caterpillars,leeches,heartworm,ticks (a tick collar can help prevent these),feline leukaemia virus and feline enteritis.Obtain advice about these from a veterinary surgeon on arrival in Spain.

Take extra care when walking your dog,as some have died after eating poisoned food in rural areas.Poisoned bait (e.g. meat laced with strychnine) is laid in some areas by hunters and poachers to control natural predators such as foxes,wolves and lynx (poisons are also laid in some urbanisations to keep down the feral cat population).

Veterinary surgeons are well trained in Spain,where it’s a popular profession,and emergency veterinary care is also available in animal clinics ( clínica veterinaria),many of which provide a 24-hour emergency service.Veterinary surgeons and animal clinics advertise in English-language publications in Spain.Health insurance for pets is available from a number of insurance companies.

There are kennels and catteries ( residencias para animales de compañía) throughout Spain,many of which advertise in Spanish English-language publications in resort areas (make sure they’re registered and bona fide establishments).Book well in advance if you plan to leave your pet at a kennel or cattery,particularly for school holiday periods.Pets must be vaccinated.

There may be discrimination against pets when renting accommodation,particularly when it’s furnished,and the statutes of community properties can legally prohibit pets.Many hotels accept pets such as cats and dogs, although they aren’t usually permitted in restaurants,cafés or food shops (except for guide dogs).Information about hotels accepting dogs and other animals can be found on numerous websites,including  and .

All dog owners are required to register their dogs and have them tattooed with their registration number in an ear or have a microchip inserted in their neck.Registration costs around €15 to €30 and there are fines for owners who don’t have their dogs registered.Irrespective of whether your dog is micro-chipped,it’s advisable to have it fitted with a collar and tag with your name and telephone number on it and the magic word ‘reward’ ( recompensa).All municipalities have rules ( ordenanzas) regarding the keeping of dogs,which require a health card if they’re older than three months.In public areas, a dog must be kept on a lead (and muzzled if dangerous) and wear a health disc on its collar.Dogs are prohibited from entering places where food is manufactured,stored or sold; from sports and cultural events and are banned from beaches.

In response to several killings and maiming by dogs in Spain,the government introduced extensive legislation for dangerous dogs with strict regulations regarding ownership of such dogs.Under the legislation there are eight breeds defined as ‘dangerous’: Akita,American Staffordshire Terrier,Dogo Argentino,Fila Brasileiro,Japanese Tosa,Pit Bull,Rottweiler and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.‘Dangerous’ breeds also include dogs that have all or most of the following characteristics: a strong and powerful appearance; a strong character; short hair; shoulder height between 50 and 70 cm and a weight of over 20kg (44lb); square and robust head with large jaws; wide and short neck; broad and deep chest; robust fore legs and muscular hind legs.

If you aren’t sure whether your dog has most of these characteristics,you should consult your vet.If your dog is ‘dangerous’ you need a special licence.In order to obtain the licence (available from local councils).The owner must be over 18,have no criminal record,undergo psychological and physical tests and have compulsory third party insurance for €120,000.A ‘dangerous’ dog must be muzzled and on a lead no longer than two metres in public areas.In private areas,if the dog isn’t securely enclosed,it must be muzzled.

It’s common in Spain for owners to let their dogs roam free (in Spain dogs go for walks on their own),although owners of unsupervised dogs are held responsible for any damage they cause.Dogs that chase cyclists and mopeds are a nuisance in some towns and Spain has a growing problem with bands of wild dogs attacking sheep and other domestic animals.One of the most unpleasant consequences of dog ownership in Spain is the vast amount of excrement deposited on Spanish streets,which is an increasing health hazard,particularly for young children.You must always watch where you walk and keep an eye on children.It’s illegal not to clean up after your dog in a public area,although few people do so.Note that the chemicals used in swimming pools are a health hazard for dogs and if you allow your dog to swim in your pool,you should hose it down afterwards.

Legislation against cruelty to animals was introduced for the first time in 2003.The Spanish aren’t sentimental about animals or a nation of animal lovers,which is confirmed by the many owners who simply abandon their pets when they go on holiday.Many Spaniards (and foreigners) own dogs simply to guard their homes and many bark continually,particularly at night.They’re often tied up for 24 hours a day,although fed and watered regularly,and may be left on their own for days or weeks at a time.However,the Spanish aren’t a nation of animal abusers and most Spaniards love and care for their pets as much as owners in any other western European country.There are animal protection organisations and animal shelters run by foreigners in many resort areas.

Most criticism is reserved for Spain’s treatment of its working animals (among the worst in the EU) and the ritual abuse of animals in what have been described as ‘barbaric medieval practices’.Among the targets of animal rights’ campaigners are bullfighting,where horses are often killed in addition to the bulls; the use of live ponies on roundabouts (the ‘living carousel’), which are often forced to work for hours on end without a rest or food or water and stone-pulling competitions by horses and donkeys in the Basque Country,where many die in the attempt to haul huge stones weighing hundreds of kilos.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.

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