Moving with pets? Find out everything you need to know about the strict local restrictions with our guide to importing pets into Switzerland.
If you’re planning on living with your pets in Switzerland, it’s important to check the latest Swiss regulations. Make sure that you have the correct papers, not only for Switzerland but for all the countries your pet passes through. Be aware that these may differ from country to country depending on where your pet is coming from. Here is the general information you will need when you decide to travel to Switzerland with your pet.
Pet immigration rules for Switzerland
Since 2007, all dogs in Switzerland must carry clearly identifiable and forge-proof chips (transponder). Owners must register them with the Animal Identity Service (ANIS). The ID chip contains a unique number as well as a code for Switzerland. This system makes it possible to retrieve data stored in the central databank on the dog owner, dog race, fur color, age, name, and sex. Puppies must have microchips and register within three months after birth. Dogs with chips implanted by veterinarians are also registered by the vet with the appropriate offices in the canton of residence. If you bring a dog into Switzerland, you must register it in the ANIS database with a veterinarian within 10 days of arrival.
Pets moving within Europe can use European Pet Passports, which are for domestic animals. The Pet Passport is a booklet that provides all of the essential information on your pet, including an identification number and proof of all relevant vaccinations. The passport remains valid for the whole life of your pet.
The EU pet passport serves as the certificate of health and can only be issued by a licensed vet. All vaccinations should be kept current by the vet who also needs to ensure that the pet is microchipped, has had the relevant rabies vaccine and has undergone a blood test to ensure that the vaccine is present in the pet’s system. If your animal was vaccinated before it was fitted with a microchip, it will have to be vaccinated again after the microchip is inserted. Additionally, if your pet’s microchip is not ISO 11784/11785 compliant, you will have to bring your own microchip scanner.
Animals from EU countries must have a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before entering Switzerland. Dogs and cats younger than three months must have a veterinary certificate, stating that the young animals were kept since birth at their birthplace without contact with wild animals. The certificate is not necessary, when the young animals are accompanied by their mother, from which they are still dependent.
Pets entering Switzerland from a country with a high incidence of rabies must have a Blood Titer Test 3 months prior to departure.
Travelers from EU countries may bring an unlimited number of pets into Switzerland.
Cubs younger than 56 days can only enter Switzerland with their mother or foster mother.
Importing certain animals without a rabies vaccination certificate is possible in a few situations:
- Cats and dogs from rabies-free countries that forbid rabies vaccinations (Australia and New Zealand).
- Puppies and kittens up to five months of age from European countries (except Turkey and the former Soviet Union) or from the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A veterinary health certificate stating the animal’s age is necessary.
- Cats and dogs traveling through Switzerland by air or rail without a stopover.
- No animal health permits or health certificates are necessary for ‘pets’ according to the definition – except for dogs, cats, ferrets, and pet birds from non-EU third countries. These pets can come from any country.
- No dogs with docked ears and/or tails.
- The maximum number of pets from non-EU countries is five.
- For several exotic pets, husbandry permission is necessary. This does not apply for short stays but only if the pet will be living in Switzerland. Before issuing a permit, the cantonal veterinarian makes sure that the space and care for the animal are available. Permits are necessary for all mammals (except for livestock species), many birds, and some fish.
- The import requirements arising from the laws on conservation on species apply for protected or non-domesticated species even if those are deemed pets.
- Switzerland reserves the right in impose temporary bans aimed at preventing the introduction of animal disease.
There are different regulations for taking birds to Switzerland. This is due to the bird flu alerts in recent years. Bird owners can import a maximum of five birds. You have a choice between a 30-day pre-export quarantine or a 30-day quarantine after the birds have been imported. If you vaccinated the bird against avian flu, the vaccination must occur at least 60 days before importation. Alternatively, you can isolate the bird for 10 days before departure and test for avian flu after at least three days of isolation. A licensed vet verifies that you satisfy these criteria.
There are separate provisions relating to the conservation of species that apply to protected or non-domesticated species. Imports of birds that have been caught in the wild are not allowed.
Exemptions: import without certificates
Neither animal health permits nor certificates nor veterinary border inspections are necessary to introduce up to five pet birds except for those caught in the wild from the following countries:
- Faroe Islands
- San Marino
- Vatican City
For other types of animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, rodents, aquarium fish and reptiles, you simply need a certificate that states that the animal is in good health. An import permit and veterinary certificate is necessary for certain domestic animals such as horses, parrots, turtles, and ferrets. You can download forms from the FVO site.
Additionally, horses need a horse passport. The person or company transporting the animals must have an export license and present it to the transportation company. The horses should have microchips and proof of good health.
Another important issue is pet insurance. Pet insurance can cover much of the expense of unexpected vet bills in case of an injury or illness. There are several considerations when choosing pet insurance:
- Does the policy cover all chronic, congenital, and hereditary conditions?
- Is there a time limit on treatment per condition?
- Is there a financial 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?
Flying with pets: airline requirements
The rules for types of containers for cats, dogs, ferrets, and birds flying in the cabin and as cargo are from IATA. For the most part, the world’s airlines accept them.
Pets in the cabin
On flights of less than ten hours, many airlines allow small cats or dogs to go in the cabin (except travel to the UK and Hong Kong). Generally, the airline will only allow one pet per passenger and a maximum of two pets per cabin. The container for the pet must fit under the seat in front of you and have a waterproof bottom and adequate ventilation. The Sherpa, Bergan and SturdiBag pet carriers are all airline compliant as long as the carrier is the proper size for your pet.
IATA Pet Crates Requirements
Your pet must be in an IATA compliant pet crate and meet certain other requirements. It is best to have only one animal per container. IATA rules state that two animals can share the same container if the animals are less than 14kg and are of the same species.
If you are purchasing a container, make sure that it meets these minimum requirements:
- The container must be large enough for the animal(s) to stand, turn around, and lie down.
- The kennel must be sturdy and plastic.
- The container must have a secure, spring-loaded, all around locking system with the pins extending beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door.
- Although this is not an IATA requirement, many airlines are now requiring steel crate hardware instead of plastic fasteners. We would recommend that you use this hardware on your pet’s crate to be sure there will be no problems.
- Both water and food bowls must be attached to the inside of the front door and be refillable from the outside of the container without opening the door.
- The container must have ventilation on all sides for international travel and three sides minimum for domestic travel.
- The container must have ‘live animal’ stickers on the top and sides in letters at least one inch tall.
- No wheels. If the container has wheels, remove them or tape them securely so that the kennel cannot roll.
- The container must have your pet’s name and the owner’s contact information. The best way to do this is to attach your pet’s information to the outside of the crate.
- Make sure to attach an extra copy of your pet’s health certificate to the container.
Keeping your pet in Switzerland
Once you and your pets have arrived, there are a few things you should know about keeping pets in Switzerland. Generally speaking, dogs can travel on Swiss trains, although the conductor can ask that your pet travels in the baggage car if it barks or snarls at the other passengers. You will need a half-fare second-class ticket for your dog, regardless of whether you are traveling first or second-class.
If you’re doing any household shopping in Switzerland, you should also be aware of local pet rules and restrictions. Oftentimes, smaller shops are dog friendly, with the conspicuous exception of food stores. There are usually tie-ups outside. You’ll also often see water bowls for dogs outside a Swiss supermarket or grocery store.
In public places, keep your dog on a leash. You must also clean up after your dog. Carry plastic bags with you, or use the disposal facilities in many public parks.
Dog license fee in Switzerland
All cantons and/or communes charge a dog license fee, which varies from commune to commune. In most cantons, reductions or exemptions are made in certain cases (for guide dogs, dogs trained in rescue operations, etc.). For more information on this, and all things pet-related, read our guide to keeping pets in Switzerland.