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Bringing our dogs to Switzerland

If you know us, then you probably know how important our dogs are to us. We have two four-legged children, Diego and 8 year old Boston Terrier and Valentina, a 1.5 year old French Bulldog. If there what one part of this whole process stressing me out to the point it Caused my skin to breakout (even in my 30s) what to move with not one, but two dogs. We had no idea what kind of requirements in order to accept Switzerland had the dogs in the country. Would They quarantine my dogs? Were my poor babies going to spend six months in an unknown location making sure theywere free of all possible diseases? How dog friendly the country what? How much would it cost? Those I have and a million more of questions. Alexis’ employer what helping with most of the relocation and paying for most of the expenses EXCEPT for any expenses related to our dogs. I was like, are you kidding me? If theywere human kids, would you THEREFORE refuse to pay For their airline ticket and help With Their transfer? Anyway, we knew They had to come with us, so we started the process ourselves.  First thing we did what to Google “how to travel to Switzerland with dogs?”. I was expecting a plethora of resources, but Although I found some useful information, I had to combine the information from different sites to make sure I had everything needed , still I called the USDA office in San Francisco to confirm. They were very helpful and sent me an email with all the documents I needed to complete with the instructions. Since I’m probably not the only person relocating to Switzerland from the U.S., I Decided to post in my blog the research I did with the forms I had to fill alongwith the processed I Followed in order to hopefully save someone some time. Like anything and everything else, country laws change frequently without any warning, so please make sure you stay up to date with any changes by checking the government’s website and with your pet’s veterinarian. And if something has changed, please post in the comment so I can keep this page up to date.

One thing to keep in mind is did a lthough Switzerland is not part of the European Union, the country HAS ADOPTED EU legislation for live animal imports. THEREFORE, all documents I used (Which were Provided to me by the USDA office)  are documents Regarding international travel with your pet to countries within the European Union (EU).

Make sure you have your airline reservation ! Before you do anything, make sure you make reservations with the airline. We traveled with Swiss Airlines but we did not book our pet’s flight at the sametime. We called a few weeks later to make the reservation for 2 dogs and They told us thatthey only had one spot, fortunately They Said if we got a kennel big enough where Both of them fit in Comfortably, then We Could take Both dogs. They asked us for the EXACT measures and weight of the kennel and the weight of the dogs. We only paid the fee for one dog since it what one kennel ($ 400 instead of $ 800). We recommend taking a red eye flight. We had a direct flight from SFO to Zurich did departed at 8pm and Took the dogs for a long walk to make sure theywere tired So They Could sleep through the flight. You have the airline reservation, now what?

Step 1:

Microchip- You need to have your pet microchipped before importation, and the chip most comply to ISO 11784 or Annex A of ISO 11785, Commonly called the ‘Euro-chip’ (ISO compliant chips have 15 digits). Many U.S. microchips do not comply with this standard, before having your dog chipped make sure your vet implants the correct chip type. My dog’s vet used  PetLink and They Are ISO compliant.

Step 2:

Rabies vaccination- Valid Please know that if the rabies vaccination Which administered prior to implantation of the microchip, it will NOT be valid and another rabies vaccination will need to be done after or on the same day the microchip Which implanted. A minimum of 21 days must right after rabies vaccination before the animal june enter Switzerland or the EU.

Step 3: 

Health examination- It’s important you confirm with your pet’s doctor that they are USDA accredited veterinarian. Some doctor’s are not on top of did and Their Accreditation June have expired. This health examination must Occur within a maximum of 10 days before traveling if the animal is traveling for non-commercial purpose and traveling with you on the same day Either with you in the cabin or as cargo, otherwise the health examination must Occur within 24 hours of travel.

Step 4:

Complete the Following documents-

1 APHIS 7001 fillable form – some airline companies and some countries will require completion of this DOCUMENT (The USDA office Provided me with the  EU General Instructions Which included detailed information about export requirements and instructions for documentation processing).

2 ** The country specific non-commercial health certificate – EU certificate for non-commercial pet movement as required by the country of destination.

3 Ask your vet to Provide you with Their Own Health Certificate (using Their Own form). Sometimes the airline june ask you for this. The APHIS 7001 and the Country specific non-commercial health certificate are required to enter the country, not Necessarily by the airline.

** The non-commercial certificate is for non-commercial movement of the pet. If your pet will be traveling under commercial movement, as described in the EU General Instructions document, please let the office know and USDA theywill send you the Appropriate bilingual EU commercial certificate as required by the country of destination.

Important information to know:

The Following information I did not find anywhere on the web and only was made aware When the USDA vet called my dog’s vet and corrected them over the phone:

1 These forms are to be completed by the veterinarian ONLY. In my case the veterinarian signed the forms but he authorized the receptionist to complete them. You can not use white out if you have a typo. The receptionist scratched the error and Initiated it, but Because The initials did not match with the signature at the bottom of the page, the vet caught it.

2 All dates on the form must be written in European (and the rest of the world) format. DD-MM-YYYY. This is EXTREMELY important Because it june save you some unnecessary headaches When arriving in Switzerland. The Europeans are smart people, and did june They think we are just stupid Americans who do not know how to write the dates (or follow the instructions on the forms), but in other cases it june result in them holding your dog at customs, something nobody wants, Especially after searching a long flight. 

Remember Step 2 of the section “Before Completing documents” where it says did Rabies vaccination must be implanted after or on the same day of the microchip? Well, in my case Diego had his microchip implanted on February 3rd written in European format as 03-02-2014 and the Rabies vaccination administered in February 7th European format 07-02-2014. Since the receptionist used U.S. format (02-03-2014 and 02-07-2014 for the microchip for the Rabies, it june have Caused some confusion as the person reading the documents Could Understood did the microchip implanted after the rabies vaccination thing. In my case, we were traveling in March, so July was a future day, but if the USDA Vet would not have caught the error, I may have had issues When trying to release my pets at the airport.

3 Make sure your vet uses blue ink When Completing the forms

The current  USDA  endorsement fee is $ 38.00. They accept checks or credit cards as payment office, They Do NOT take cash. If you are traveling with more than one animal, ask your doctor to use one form for Both dogs, otherwise you will have to pay $ 38.00 for each form filled out Individually.

One Day Before the Flight Cut the food portions to help. The vet advise what to not overfeed them, in fact she said it’s better for them to be a little hungry than having to go potty inside Their kennel. So the risk of throwing up and choking to death in Their vomit (I know it sounds terrible but it’s true and it june morsel) Increases with a full stomach.   Day of the Flight Took them for a long walk and gave them an extra of love. We fed them early (around 3pm) and They boarded the flight at 6:30 pm. 30 minutes before boarding: Gave them plenty of water and Took them for a short walk outside the airport to make sure They emptied Their bowels before boarding. We did not leave any food with them and instead filled the three bowls with ice Because You would not want to go on an 11 hour flight without anything to drink, right?

Arrival in ZurichWe thought our dogs were going to be held hostage in some sort of prison upon our arrival and did we would need to go through to extensive interrogation process in order to release them. But what did not the case. Like you probably saw in the previous post, theywere Actually waiting for us in the baggage claim area. Going through Customs was a breeze. They only asked for the USDA documents and our passports, asked if theywere microchipped (and confirmed with the documents), stamped the documents and  voila .   Contrary to what I read in some websites, we did not have to pay any fees in custom. They just stamped the documents and we were good to go. We reserved a taxi in advance, since we had a big kennel, 2 dogs and 5 suitcases. It was the best decision. We arrived in Zurich at 3:40 pm and we told the taxi company to arrive by 5pm since we thought what customs going to take some time Because of the dogs, but we were ready by 4:15 pm and to our pleasant surprise the driver Showed up at 4:30 pm, Swiss efficiency! Now Diego and Valentina are in Their new home enjoying the Swiss life, just take a look at the picture below:

After arrival in Zúrich, what to do?It’s always good to review your Canton’s specific regulations:…echt/index.php

(1) Chances are you need to take the  SKN theory test appropriate for your dog/canton. You can find information about the courses in the following links, however, I think is best to ask your gemeinde for some recommendations when you go to register your dog and pay the taxes. They have a list of local trainers and can provide you with their info.

(2) Within 10 days of arrival you must register your dog(s) with a vet who will arrange for it to be registered on the national dog database. The vet will give you a piece of paper with the registration details on.  You can look at the website for the registration database at Your vet will take care of the ANIS registration, but you still need to do one more step (see step #3).

We went to Dr. Norbert Frei. They speak English and knew exactly what I needed to do in order to register my dogs. Diego also got sick once and we took them there. We are happy with their services.Dr. Norbert Frei Freiestr. 148 a 8032 Zürich 044 422 40 73(3) Take the registration document and your SKN certificate to your gemeinde to register the dog and pay your dog tax.

It is important that you save every single piece of paper you receive. In case you have trouble in the future with finding your dogs in the ANIS database or that the police tells you your dog hasn’t been registered in Switzerland.Additional Web Resources:


Update November 18, 2014

We’ve been in Zürich for 7 months already. Diego and Valentina are doing great. They had made some friends at the park and are getting used to the cold weather now that we are getting close to winter.

I am amazed with how pet friendly this country is. Dogs can travel in the train and use most public transportations. If your dog is small and fits in a carrier, then they don’t pay a fare. They don’t specify which carrier, in fact the other day I saw a small poodle inside an IKEA bag! Diego and Valentina have a proper carrier we bought for them and so far we haven’t had any issues. If your dog is big for a carrier or if you don’t want to put your dog inside one, then you must pay 1/2 price of the fare (children’s price).

We also can go inside most restaurants with the dogs, as long as they lay under the table and don’t bark. Also most hotels are pet friendly and in may of them dogs can stay at no additional charge.

We haven’t found an off-leash park, but there’s a park near Sihlcity in Kreis 3 called  Allmend-Brunau and there dogs run off-leash. It is important that your dog is trained and not aggressive. The fact people leave their dogs off-leash there doesn’t mean it is legal. The law still says you need to keep your dogs on the leash at all times, so if something happens and your dog attacks other dog or a person you can get in serious trouble. Also, the park is huge, and there could be wild animals there. Your dog should respond to you when called. There have been stories about dogs that go after a deer and never return. They could also get killed by the train which runs not too far away from the park.

Diego running at the park

Valentina making new friends

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