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What is the process for cats and dogs?

Yes, UK residents are entitled to take their dog or cat to Spain as part of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), as long as certain EU-standard procedures are followed. The rules are pretty straightforward for cats and dogs (and ferrets, oddly), but it gets a little more complicated if you’re planning on bringing the animal back. It can be expensive to take a budgie or parrot to Spain, due to regulations concerning avian flu, but virtually anything – tortoise, rabbit, donkey etc – can be taken with the right documentation, which is generally an export licence. Such is the expense and bureaucracy, however, that it is generally only suitable for lengthy trips – not worth it for a fortnight’s holiday. This is an especially sensible policy for dogs, given the prevalence of a disease called leishmaniasis.

First, visit the vet and get your cat or dog microchipped and vaccinated. Micro-chipping is a painless procedure whereby a microchip the size of a grain of rice, programmed with an ID number, is inserted into the back of the animal’s neck. Your pet won’t be able to feel it. The chip must conform to certain ISO standards so that it can be read by the chip-reader machine in Spain, so ensure that your vet knows the animal is going abroad. A rabies vaccination is the next step, which is also painless and can be done during the same visit. If this is your dog’s first rabies vaccine it must be administered at least 21 days before travelling to Spain. The vet will issue your pet with an EU pet passport and you’re free to go.

What about horses? Horses frequently travel backwards and forwards from the UK to the continent, as anyone who saw Sea The Stars’ stunning win at Longchamps will know. They are generally transported by road and ferry via France, and there are rules concerning export licences and travel routes. For more information contact the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), or a recognised horse transporter such as John Parker International, being careful to avoid cowboys.

PHOTO: mandoft at, CC-BY

26 Living Spain SPRING 2010

What will all that cost? Vets’ prices vary around the country, but expect to pay £120 to £200 for both procedures. For the rabies blood test that will enable you to bring the pet back to the UK, allow another £150.

Which airlines and ferry companies can my pet travel out to Spain with? British Airways, Thomson, Monarch and several other airlines will take pets, but easyJet and Ryanair certainly do not. Even for those airlines that do, you need to be careful that the box will fit into the plane, since a Great Dane-sized crate will often not fit through the door of some aircraft holds. Contact the airline, where there will be a dedicated team available to organise the flight, with fees that can be anything from £200 to £400. Although you often see dogs being carried in the passenger cabin abroad, even going through the x-ray machines with no apparent ill-effects, all airlines operating from the UK will put your pet in the hold, which is temperature-controlled and pressurised, carrying a maximum of six dogs per aircraft. Brittany Ferries will take a cat or dog direct to Santander in northern Spain from Portsmouth or Plymouth (depending on the season) because the crossing is relatively fast, at 20 to 24 hours, and there is access to the car deck. The P&O Portsmouth-Bilbao crossing is too long for pets, but you can travel via the Dover-Calais route with a pet for just a £15 extra charge, either in a vehicle or in a lockable box.


PHOTO: Miguel Vera at, CC-BY-SA

PHOTO: thomaswanhoff at, CC-BY-SA

Taking pets along when relocating overseas can make settling into a new country easier. There are various issues that need to be considered though. Chris Nye tackles some of the questions that will inevitably crop up.

Can I take my pet to Spain?

PHOTO: Graham Simpson, CC-BY-SA


ADVICE Take your pet to Spain

SPRING 2010 Living Spain 27

ADVICE Take your pet to Spain What about coming back to the UK?

Pets must be treated against ticks and tapeworm between 24 and 48 hours before you check in for your journey to the UK. The vet must also issue an official certificate of treatment to show it has been carried out.

What will it cost? Returning by air is more expensive since you must use an appointed agent, who charge around £500 to carry, for example, an Alsatian from Malaga to Gatwick, and that is without vets’ bills or travelling box.

Do I need some kind of container or cage? For ferries and Eurotunnel, your dog can simply sit in your vehicle, though cats will need a box. Pets travelling by air will need a container approved by the International Air Travel Association (IATA). You can certainly not just turn up at the check-in desk with your dog on a lead. In its cage, the dog must be able to stand up, lie down and turn around. The box must have spacer bars to allow the movement of air around it, have plenty of air holes, a solid base, a door lock, ‘This Way Up’ notices, secure hinges and a door that opens from the front. There are many boxes available, with prices ranging from £70 to £190, or as low as £20 for a cat box.

Are there any restrictions on pets’ ages? Three months is the minimum age to transport

28 Living Spain SPRING 2010

Should the animal be sedated? Sedation is not recommended because most tranquilisers reduce blood pressure, which occurs at altitude anyway. The dual effect could be fatal in older or stressed dogs. Keeping the dog in a cool, dark place is more likely to keep it calm. If sedatives are used, the name of the drug, the time and the method of administration must be recorded.

What should I do to prepare for the flight? Feed the animal only a light meal and a short drink about two hours before dispatch and take it for a little exercise. Water containers must be attached to the box with access to be filled from outside, in case of delay. Take the animal, in its box, to the cargo area at least two hours before departure.

What happens on arrival in Spain?

It can be expensive to take a budgie or parrot to Spain, due to regulations concerning avian flu. PHOTO: The Gut, CC-BY-SA

Any extra health precautions on the way back?

pets either into or out of Spain. Bitches on heat should not be shipped either.

PHOTO: cjc4454, CC-BY-SA

Bringing a pet back from Spain is more complicated. It requires at least six months from the date of its rabies vaccine before the cat or dog can be returned to the UK. Moreover, a vet will need to do a blood test to determine that sufficient quantities of the rabies vaccine are in the blood. Don’t worry though, cases of rabies are extremely rare in Spain. For carriage, only UK airports with an animal reception centre can accept an animal: these are Doncaster, Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester. Not very handy if you need to get to Glasgow, but at least internal flights are not subject to the same restrictions. DEFRA has a list of approved carriers from Spain to Britain, including BA, Thomson, Thomas Cook, My Travel and Monarch. Coming back, you need to book your pet with an approved cargo agent at the airport that operates PETS, who will take care of customs clearance etc. Pets that arrive without the correct documentation will either have to remain in quarantine for six months, a major expense, or be flown back. Only Brittany Ferries can carry a pet direct from Spain, but approved ferry operators via France include Brittany Ferries, P&O, Norfolkline and Condor. By rail, Eurotunnel will accept dogs in a vehicle, and Eurostar will accept guide dogs.

Dogs usually take around 90 minutes to be cleared through customs, assuming all the paperwork is in order. Don’t forget that you will not be allowed to take a dog in a hire car.

What are the common health problems for pets moving to Spain? A serious problem for dogs being taken to Spain is leishmaniasis, an incurable condition that affects the immune system and is spread by tiny mosquitoes. Many dogs die from the disease, and it is estimated that as many as 50 per cent of dogs in Spain have it. There is no vaccination or cure, and the only way to avoid it is by keeping your dog in at dusk – hardly practical long term. However, leishmaniasis can be treated on an ongoing basis and certainly should not put you off moving to Spain – your dog can still lead a long and happy life there, even with the condition. There have also been cases of dogs dying from snakebites. Aside from these critters, heat is the most obvious problem. Your dog or cat should be able to cope with it simply by avoiding stress, drinking plenty and lying in the shade – probably much like their owners.

What are vet facilities like in Spain? Opinions vary. Most people reckon that veterinary practices are at least as good as in the UK, while others warn of a certain amateurishness. As in the UK it is best to find a vet that specialises in pets, rather than, for example, farm animals. It is also possible to get pet insurance just like in the UK. There is every reason to take your pet with you to Spain. As long as you prepare thoroughly and take note of your responsibilities, the process should be simple and painless, for both you and your animal.

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