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Moving to Italy with pets? Here’s what you need to know

Moving to Italy with pets? Here’s what you need to know
Can you bring a four-legged friend along on your Italian adventure? Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
If you’re dreaming of moving to Italy but couldn’t imagine life there without your pets, you’ll need to get organised. Here’s how to make the move with your furry friends by your side.

Starting a new life in Italy comes with a considerable amount of red tape. 

Which visa is right for you, where to live, the jobs you could do, the language you’ll need to learn – and your budget that affects all of these variables – will likely be at the top of the list. But don’t forget the administrative hurdles you’ll need to overcome if you want to bring Fido and Fluffy with you too.

READ ALSO: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

The good news is that life in Italy is pretty well adapted for pets. Landlords are generally accommodating, and dogs are allowed almost everywhere in public, with some restrictions: city parks may either prohibit them or only allow them to enter on the lead and some beaches may ban dogs in the summer months. You’ll also need to remember to keep your dogs on a lead with a muzzle if you’re taking them on public transport.

And starting your life in Italy with pets just might help you to settle in to the country. Michael Tieso from Washington, Seattle, who moved to Bologna with his Terrier mix dog, said having his pet helped ease him into a new culture and language.

I was pleasantly surprised just how much everyone loved dogs. There were so many opportunities to meet people as a result of having a dog. It made for a great conversation starter that helped me to learn Italian,” he said.

How many and what kind of pets can I move to Italy?

There’s good news for animal lovers with multiple pets. You can move up to five pets with you to Italy, including dogs, cats or ferrets, as stipulated in the EU legislation Regulation (EU) No 576/2013.

If you want to bring more than five, you’ll need to go down a different route, as the law only extends the limit if the animals are to be used for exhibitions, sporting events or competitions.

Other types of pets, such as birds, ornamental aquatic animals, reptiles, rodents or rabbits have different rules – check the Italian Ministry of Health section for their entry requirements.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Since it was introduced in 2014, the EU law has included provisions for people bringing animals to Italy from both EU-countries and third countries – that is, non-member states.

There are slightly different rules for bringing pets from an EU country or a non-EU country. Since the “adoption of harmonised rules” and “dramatic advances made in the fight against rabies”, it is easier for EU citizens and their dogs, cats and ferrets to enjoy freedom of movement with the Union, according to the European Commission.

What every pet moving to Italy needs:

No matter where you’re coming from, all dogs, cats and ferrets must meet the following requirements:

  • They must be identified by a microchip (or a clearly legible tattoo if applied before July 3rd 2011).
  • It is prohibited to bring dogs, cats and ferrets to Italy that are:
    1. Aged less than 12 weeks and have not been vaccinated against rabies;
    2. Aged between 12 and 16 weeks and have only just had their vaccinations. You have to wait 21 days after their primary vaccination before departure.

Your pet may need treatment against the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis too. Check your country’s embassy website to see if this applies to you.

All these details need to be stamped in your pet’s passport or an Animal Health Certificate, depending on where you’re travelling from.

Do I need a pet passport or an Animal Health Certificate?

If you’re travelling from an EU country, you need a pet passport. If your country of departure is outside the EU, you’ll need an animal health certificate (AHC). The latter now includes British citizens since Britain left the EU

Once you’re living in Italy, you can then apply for the European pet passport, which allows pets to move freely within the EU. The document is a small blue booklet, identical for all countries within the EU, and is written in both English and the issuing country’s language. It lasts for the duration of the pet’s life and will have a unique ID number.

The passport must show the microchip or tattoo number, and contain proof of a valid vaccine against rabies. You can only get one from a vet, who will check that your pet meets the entry requirements.

READ ALSO: Ten wonderfully quirky Italian animal-related idioms

To get an AHC, you need to make a trip to your vet no more than 10 days before travel to the EU. The certificate will also contain specific information including contact details, your pet’s health and vaccination records. From the date of issue, the certificate lasts for four months (or until the rabies vaccine expires, whichever comes first) and is valid for travel between EU countries.

For Michael, this was the most stressful part of moving his dog to Italy. However, he was surprised that getting the paperwork together wasn’t as complicated as he feared. “Everything just needs to occur at a specific time, and with the right people. For example, the AHC needs to be created just days before travel confirming the pet is healthy. 

“That part can feel stressful as it’s just days before you’re meant to travel, but as long as everything is in order, it works out pretty smoothly,” he said.

He advised creating a checklist and a calendar to ensure you follow the steps with the vaccinations, the vet and the documents you may need in your home country before departure.

It’s wise to start the process early and give yourself plenty of time before your departure date to complete the pet paperwork. As a rough guide, you’ll need around four months to go through the process, according to the Italian Ministry of Health.

If you’re moving to Italy from Britain, UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss states: “Your vet will be able to advise what you need to do in order to obtain the correct documentation to travel and you can find the latest pet travel advice on gov.uk or by searching ‘pet travel’.”

Citizens of the United States will need to reference the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to get their AHC.

An example of the certificate you’ll receive as a third-country national can be seen here.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Travelling to Italy with your pet

Once you’ve got the paperwork, it’s time to get working on the logistics.

If you’re travelling by plane, you’ll need to check the requirements of your carrier. Can your pet be in the cabin or will they need to travel in the hold? What are the weight restrictions? What are the extra costs? What happens if you have a layover? There’s no single definitive answer to these questions and you’ll need to check with the individual airline.

American pet owner Michael said the plane journey with his dog was a “nightmare”. He explained that thanks to the layover, he almost arrived in Italy with his dog lost in transit.

“We had a layover in Frankfurt and they almost didn’t transfer our dog to the next flight to Bologna. I was told on the phone the price I paid included both legs. Unfortunately, this was not the case and because it was on the phone, there was no way to prove that I was told this.

“On arrival at Frankfurt, we struggled to find where our dog was and somehow managed to pay (again) and get our dog onto the same flight as ours before takeoff. It was stressful,” he added.

Sharing from his lesson, Michael recommends you confirm that your dog will be transported across all legs of the journey if you’re moving to Italy by air. He also says it’s a good idea to give them a long walk right up until they board the plane.

What to do once you arrive

Once your pets have got their paws on Italian soil, how can you help them find their place in their new home? Firstly, there’s more paperwork. It’s essential that you register your dog with the regional anagrafe degli animali d’affezione (pet registry, also referred to as the anagrafe canina or dog registry), which records your pet’s microchip number alongside your contact details.

Registration isn’t compulsory for cats, but it might help with tracing them back to you in case they get lost.

Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

You have a time limit to register your dog once you’ve arrived and if you don’t, there could be a fine (the time and penalties vary by region). You can register either at the veterinary services (Servizi Veterinari) of the Local Health Authority ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale), or by asking a vet.

Registration involves an administrative fee of around €30 and you’ll need to provide:

  • Proof of identity
  • Tax code (codice fiscale
  • Proof of the dog’s inoculation and microchip number

But how do you find a vet? There’s a huge range of options with many public and private clinics. Accredited vets broken down by regions can be found on the Italian Ministry of Health’s database. The National Federation of Italian Veterinarians – Federazione Nazionale Ordini Veterinari Italianiis also a useful portal to start your research. Inputting your area will bring up all the local vets.

Vet fees can be extremely high, so getting pet insurance is wise. This is especially useful if you have an accident and your dog bites another animal or person, for instance. There are many providers: some well-known ones include Allianz Pet Care or AXA.

Animal first aid services – pronto soccorso veterinario – may be available in your area in case your beloved pet gets injured or ill and needs emergency medical help. It isn’t standardised throughout the country, so you’d need to check what’s available in the area you want to move to.

In the worst case scenario, you can call the national emergency number – 118 – and you would be directed to the nearest animal medical assistance, just as you would for humans.

Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

If you want to ensure your pet stays valid for travel in the EU, now that you’re in Italy, you’re eligible to apply for the pet passport. You can get these from the local health authority veterinary services – the AUSL (Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale).

You’ll need to book an appointment at your local Centro Unico di Prenotazione CUP office, which is a centralised booking system for healthcare services. This is where you begin the process of obtaining your pet passport. Michael said this was “straightforward” and costs around €15.

What can you do to help your pet settle in?

Getting used to your new neighbourhood will be adventure enough for your little beasties. You may consider talking to a dog trainer to help them adjust to the new streets. A good way to find a reputable canine expert – educatore/educatrice – is to talk to your neighbours. No doubt you’ll strike up conversation when they see new furry faces at the park.

Word of mouth is strong in Italy and there’s no exception when it comes to referring dog professionals. Searching online can help too, as some may have a website or social media presence. Try putting ‘educatore cinofilo’ – dog trainer – into your search engine and you’ll find the businesses closest to you.

The APNECAssociazione Professionale Nazionale Educatori Cinofili (National Professional Association of Dog Trainers) – is also a good jumping-off point to find qualified professionals all over Italy. Costs for training sessions can range from around €20-50 per hour and the course duration depends on you and your dog’s needs.

It may seem like an agility course, for both man and beast – but with planning and patience, you too can make the move to Italy with your furry family members in tow.


Member comments

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  1. This article was very informative, the one question I still have is, do the animals have to be quarantined upon arrival? It’s not mentioned so I’m assuming not.

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