moving with a dog to italy

Moving to Italy with a dog: expat relocation guide

When we decided that we would move to Italy, there was no question about whether our dog would come with us. In fact, we brought our two dogs to Italy a few years before we did the move, like a trial of sorts. The good news is that bringing your pet to Italy is not that complicated. In fact, it’s probably the easiest part of Italian bureaucracy you’ll come across. 

Having done the trip more than once, moving to Italy with a dog was fairly simple. As there are many people trying to do the same, I thought it would be good to share our experience and clarify the process. Whether you’re moving from Canada like we did or the United States, the process is fairly simple.

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What type of pet can you bring to Italy?

The Italian government allows you to bring up to five pets at the same time. You can bring domestic animals like dogs, cats, ferrets, small birds (not parrots), small fish and common lizards and reptiles (turtles, frogs) and rodents (excluding rabbits and hares). You’re not able to bring exotic animals to the country.

Dogs, cats and ferrets must be older than 12 months and accompany the owner. You can only bring your pet birds through the Fiumicino Airport in Rome or the Malpensa Airport in Milan with advanced notice. If your pet doesn’t fall under these categories, check out the official site for more details.

moka and snoopy moving to ITALY WITH A DOG
Bringing pets to Italy

Rules for moving to Italy with a dog based on country of origin

If you’re relocating from certain countries, such as the European Union member states or rabies-free regions, the process is relatively straightforward. However, if your origin country isn’t on the ‘preferred’ list, you will likely need to adhere to more stringent regulations, including longer waiting periods before travel and additional health checks. Canada falls into the rabies-controlled category, which made the process easier for us.

  • EU countries: Coming to Italy with a pet from another EU member state is the easiest option. All you need is an up to date vaccinations and an EU pet passport. These are standard documentation in Europe and contain the description of your pet, its age, breed, vaccination status, and owner details. 
  • Third listed countries: These are the countries that fall into the rabies-free or rabies-controlled countries. They include Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Ascension, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Bermuda, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Canada, Chile, Curaçao, Croatia, Faroe Islands, Falkland Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Greenland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montserrat, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Russian Federation, San Marino, Switzerland, Singapore, St Helena, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St. Martin, St Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu, Vatican City, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Wallis and Futuna.
  • Other countries: If you’re moving to Italy with a dog or other pet from a country not in the above categories, you must ensure you have the required paperwork. Your pets might be subject to pet quarantines. 

Requirements for bringing your pets to Italy

As mentioned, your pet must be old enough to travel, but in our case, we had to make sure our older pets were fit to fly. Some airlines can also refuse your pet if it’s under or over a certain age. Your vet is the best person to determine if your animal is in good health and if fit for air travel. Things like stress, inadequate transport or many other things can affect your pet’s well-being. Travel is stressful enough, and you don’t want to make it even worse for yourself and your pet if you constantly worry about them.

flying with pets
flying with pets was totally worth it for us

Microchip

Before anything else, your pet must be microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip. If your pet is not microchipped, you must complete that before getting the rabies vaccine. There is a strict rule about this, and it’s an important step, so you shouldn’t ignore it.

Rabies vaccination

Your pet should be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian against rabies at least 21 days before travel date, regardless of age. It takes 21 days for the vaccine to kick in, hence the rule. Again, this is the rule for Italy. Other countries might have different rules. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate on you in case you need it.

Health certificate

Another important document to obtain before travel is a health certificate from your veterinarian. The veterinary certificate has to be signed by both your local vet and the local government agency within 10 days of travel departure. For us in Canada, that was the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The document is in English and Italian and outlines pet information, including the microchip and rabies vaccination history. If you’re not in Canada, a specific organization designated by your country will sign the papers for you.

Pet travel requirements for Italy

In addition to the rules set out by the Italian authorities, you need to consider airline policies and how you’ll bring your pet over. As our flight from Toronto to Rome was quite long, it was important that the flight was direct and that we felt comfortable with the airline we chose. 

Moving to Italy with a dog: expat relocation guide

Airline pet policies

Each airline has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to flying with pets. Some might limit how many pets can be on a flight, whether your pet can go in a cabin or must be in the cargo hold. Some even restrict the size and type of dog you can bring over. It’s essential to do your research and choose the carrier that fits your budget and prioritizes your pet’s safety and comfort. Opt for direct flights when possible to minimize travel time.

Our best choices were Air Canada and Air Transat. I’ve researched both extensively and talked to reps from both airlines numerous times.  What it came down to was regulation. Air Canada has a restriction that they won’t take the dogs on if the temperature at departure and/or landing is over 29.5 Celsius. I wasn’t entirely clear as to why, other than that it was to protect the animals’ safety. I get the safety concerns, but aren’t planes ventilated? I had nightmares about my poor dogs locked in their carriers with no air.

Air Transat doesn’t have the same regulation. The reps were super friendly and patient when I called them with questions. Air Transat heats the cargo and air conditions it, making the flight comfortable for the pets. This was a relief since flying to Rome in the middle of August meant temperatures higher than 29 degrees.

Pet carriers

In addition to the pet breed, age, and health restrictions, you are looking at the carrier’s regulations. Depending on the size of your pet, you might need a custom-made carrier. All the airlines have specifications, and they usually are very similar.

Moving to Italy with a dog: expat relocation guide

Your pet has to be able to stand and turn around comfortably in the carrier. The recommended carrier is made from rigid plastic with a wired door. Wired cages are not allowed. You are encouraged to place a familiar object like a toy or a blanket with the pet to provide comfort. We were lucky to have dog beds that fit perfectly inside the carriers.

There is also a maximum carrier restriction for size and weight. This is also something each airline has available online. For Air Transat, 32 kg (70 lb), including the pet and the carrier. Luckily, our dogs weigh a lot less than that.

Transport agents for pets

As flying with pets to Italy wasn’t overly onerous, we did the whole process ourselves. However, if the thought of navigating pet transport logistics is overwhelming, consider enlisting the help of professional pet transport agents. These experts are invaluable for international moves, as they can handle everything from required documentation to the transportation itself.

These companies ensure all the documentation is completed correctly and vaccine timelines are met. If your pet requires a custom transport carrier, they can also assist with that. From building custom carriers for pets and looking after all details, including getting the pets to and from the airport, third-party companies can take much of the stress away from already stressful processes.

Pet transport – travel tips

Most airlines offer the same suggestions for getting ready for pet transport. Based on our experience, here are some tips and suggestions.

  • Include familiar objects (blanket or toy) with your pet for reassurance, and check with the airline if a pet bed is acceptable if it fits in the carrier.
  • Whenever possible opt for a direct flight.
  • Don’t tranquillize your pet before the flight. Some airlines might refuse to transport a tranquillized pet. We used natural travel anxiety drops before the flight.
  • Do not provide food or water inside the carrier to avoid spillage and discomfort. Also, don’t feed your dog before the flight.
  • Provide an empty dish (or check if the airline provides one) to feed/water the pet in case of delays. We had to sign a consent form for them to do that.
  • Take your dogs for an extended walk before the flight. It will tire them out since they will be contained for hours on the plane.
  • We bought thunder shirts for the dogs to help with anxiety and stress. We’ve used them extensively since then, and they seem to help.
  • Have some food on hand to feed the pets upon arrival. We used portable water dishes for food and water. They proved very useful.

After you arrive in Italy

Once your pet has been boarded, there is nothing else you can do. The flight attendants informed us when our dogs got on board and how they were doing. Upon arrival, you must go through customs before reuniting with your pets. The first time we came to Italy with our dogs, their cages were waiting by the luggage belt. The second time, we got there first. The staff at Fiumicino airport was accommodating and made sure we got our dog as soon as she was off the plane.  

Customs and declarations

The funny thing about this process was that we had to get all this paperwork and documents ready before travel, as we were told. Upon arrival, nobody asked to see our papers. The first time, we stopped by the “something to declare” area to show them our papers and were met with confusion. The second time, we just got the dog and our bags and left. 

This is not to say that you don’t need the papers. You have to show all the required paperwork as you’re checking in. The airline can refuse you if you don’t have the papers, so it’s best to get it all done. 

flying with pets
Flying with pets to Italy was an experience

Pets and jetlag

Whether your pet suffers from jetlag depends a lot on your pet. Just like people, pets can react differently to new surroundings and their new home. Our dogs were knocked out once we got into the rental car. The journey was over two hours, and they slept the whole way. We’ll never know whether it was jetlag, stress or exhaustion from the flight.

They adjusted well, and we didn’t see any significant changes in them. However, I was curious enough to look it up, and jetlag in animals is possible. Keep that in mind if you are planning on flying with pets. Some can be awake/sleepy at uncommon times and can be slightly off for a few days. It’s good to get them back into a routine to adjust to the new hours.

Local vets

Finding an accredited veterinarian was our priority, and we were lucky enough to find a clinic where the vets speak English. Once in Italy, you’ll have to maintain your pet’s vaccines and if you plan on travelling in Europe, you’ll need a pet passport. The process is fairy simple. The vet will need to verify your pet’s microchip or tattoo and valid rabies vaccination and will take a blood test to confirm the vaccine is in the pet’s system.

Moving to Italy with a dog: expat relocation guide

Moving to Italy with a dog – was it with it?

Italy is one of the most pet-friendly countries and dogs are allowed in most public places, including archaeological sites. We took the dogs to the beach, bars and restaurants, and on public transport. Some grocery stores even have special carts for putting your dogs in while you shop and you can’t use them without a pet.

Going through the process of moving to Italy with a dog was definitely an experience. In the end, was it worth it? Absolutely. I am so happy we have the dog with us. She’s getting older, and the climate is better for her health. She’s been all over Italy, from Sicily to Florence and everything in between.

Listen to our podcast episode about moving to Italy with pets!

Find it on wherever you listen to your fave podcasts!

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