Relocations can be stressful at the best of times and when moving includes pets, it can get a bit too much sometimes. However, with a little bit of advance planning, the entire process can be really smooth and hassle-free. Having moved with Mia, our not-so-little pooch, from South Africa to the UK, then to France and now to Sweden – I can tell you this from experience!
Moving within the European Union (EU) with a pet is very very simple. but moving into the EU from another country is more difficult and needs a little more planning. A few years ago, I detailed the steps about moving from South Africa to the UK with a dog. You can read it here.
Requirements when moving to Sweden with pets from within the EU
- The pet must be micro-chipped – every animal entering Sweden must have an ISO-standard micro chip. Customs at the port of entry will scan your pet and if for any reason the micro chip is unreadable, your pet might not be allowed to enter. So please ensure you have this.
- Valid rabies vaccination – your pet’s rabies vaccination must be valid and up to date, and you should be able to prove it either through an entry on the pet’s passport or through a certified vet document. Please bear in mind that animals need to be 12-weeks or older to get the first vaccine. So you can only travel after that in case you have a puppy. Also, the first vaccine should be administered after the pet has been micro chipped, to be valid.
- Pet passport – this is one of the most important documents that all pet owners living in the EU (including the UK at this point!) should have for their pets. The document records the pet’s details including the micro chip number, vaccinations and all/any other treatments that have been administered along with the vet’s details and stamp. Not just for relocation, but also when traveling within the EU, the pet passport allows for a hassle free journey with your pet.
The above are requirements for when your pet is traveling with you. If for any reason, you are not able to travel on the same date/flight, there are some additional requirements you need to comply with.
Pets traveling without their owners
In addition to the above three requirements, you will need the below:
4. A declaration authorising your representative to transport your pet.
5. Your travel details – copies of your ticket showing your arrival date and place. Please note that owners are required to travel within five days of the pet’s travel. If you travel more than five days before or after your pet, the pet will fall under trade/commercial transport and you will need to follow a different set of regulations. You can get more details on the the Swedish government website.
Other preparations before you and your pet travel
Choosing the mode of travel
Once you have the paperwork in place, it’s time to decide the best mode of transport. The easiest and quickest way to reach Sweden is by air. However, you can also choose to travel by road and cross into Sweden from the mainland via a ferry from either Germany or Denmark. The latter will be the most comfortable and stress-free for your pet, albeit slightly long – depending on where you are traveling from.
For most of us though, flying might be the most viable option. In this case, I would strongly advise researching the airlines very carefully. Read reviews from other people who have travelled with pets. Read the airlines’ policies as well. Some are known to be more careful with pets than others. In the past, we have flown Mia on British Airways and Air France and we definitely recommend it.
Always choose the shortest and most direct flight option. A short change of flight may not be a problem for us, but for your pet, it’s a huge disruption. A direct flight is faster and less stressful for them.
Buying your pet’s flight ticket
Once you have decided on your airline and route, it’s time to book your tickets. It’s better to do so as early as possible to ensure you and your pet can travel on the same flight as live animal spots are limited on each flight.
On most airlines, pets can only be booked by calling their customer service centre. You can either book your tickets first and then call them to add your pet in or you can identify the flight you want to be on and then get the customer service agent to book you all in together. I prefer the latter as it guarantees that my pet will be on the same flight!
Getting the right travel crate/bag
Small pets, usually upto 8 kgs, are allowed to travel with you in the cabin but check your airline policy as it can differ, while larger animals must go in the hold. When traveling in the cabin, your pet will need to be in a flexible bag while in the hold, they need to be in an IATA-approved crate.
Make sure you read the airline policy carefully about the crate requirements and only buy an IATA-approved crate of the right dimensions. If the airline feels that the crate does not adhere to its regulations, your pet might not be allowed to fly.
If your pet has never flown or travelled before, it’s best to get them used to the crate/travel bag in advance.
Veterinary health check before moving day
A week or so before you travel, it’s advisable to take your pet to the vet for a complete health check. This is just to ensure that everything is as it should be and that your pet is healthy to undertake the journey. It’s also good to just get a health certificate from the vet stating that all is good. It can be quite handy for older pets.
On the day of travel
All your bags are packed, and you are ready to go…….but just before you start your journey, a few pointers especially if you are flying with your pet:
- Exercise your pet well so that he/she is tired and calm before the flight.
- Feed your pet 4/6 hrs before the flight but not after that.
- Give them water.
- Don’t sedate them. Most vets and countries prohibit sedation. If your dog is stressed, try giving her/him something natural to calm down. There are sprays available now that can be put on their blanket or coat.
- Put their regular blanket on the base of the crate. This will provide them with a feeling of security and also help keep them calm.
- Don’t put them inside the crate until you have to check them in.
- Keep them with you and walk them at the airport as long as you can.
Check-in at the airport
When flying with a dog, check in is usually at a separate counter. Just ask the airport staff to guide you to it. It will not normally be the general queue.
At check in, the staff will tag the crate, check-in your luggage and provide you with your boarding passes. They will not take your pet at this point.
If your pet is traveling in the hold, you will need to drop-off your pet at a separate place – just before you go through security. This is usually 30 mins before your flight’s boarding time.
Your pet will need to be put inside the crate only at this point. Once inside, ensure the crate door is securely fastened. The staff will just scan the tag on the carrier, and off it will go. You can now proceed as normal for your own security-check and boarding.
On the flight……
While you really don’t have to do anything after you board, I usually find it calming (for me), to just tell the staff on board that our pet will be traveling in the hold! It’s just re-assuring to hear that they will check on her and confirm that she has boarded too. Usually, pets are boarded last and off-boarded first so as to minimise their time in the hold.
I also get them to check on her mid-way through the flight. At times I wonder if Mia is more stressed or me!!
Collection in Stockholm and customs
After you land, since you are flying from within the EU, there will be no passport control. You can head straight to the baggage pick up area and just look for the oversized bags and animals counter. It’s quite clearly marked and easy to spot at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.
Wait here for the attendant to bring the crate and then all you need to do is put it on a trolley and head to customs. You are not allowed to take your pet out of the crate until customs have cleared it.
At customs, have your pet passport ready. They will ask you to take your pet out now so that they can scan the micro chip. It takes no more than five minutes and then you are all clear and ready to enjoy your new life in Sweden!