Pets in Spain – Expatica Belguim

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Whether you’re adopting or buying pets in Spain or bringing them with you, here’s everything about pet rules, services, insurance, and healthcare.

Like many countries, Spain is a nation of pet lovers, which reflects in the cultural norms and regulations. Many families, including international households, keep cats, dogs, fish, birds, or other domesticated animals for companions. Still, there are many things to consider when becoming a pet owner or whenever relocating to the country with your pet.

Therefore , here’s what you should know about pets in Spain, including information on:

Pet culture in Spain

Pets are popular in Spain, although there are usually various rules and regulations concerning dog ownership. These rules often differ across the autonomous communities.

Couple walking dogs in Pinedo Beach, Valencia, Spain
Pinedo Beach, Valencia, Spain (Photo: Xisco Navarro/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

According to the Spanish Network for the Identification of Pets ( Red Española de Indetificación de animales sobre compañia, REIAC ), there are around 13 million registered pets vacation. Figures from 2019 show that 26% of households own dogs and 11% own cats. However , the total number of pets in Spain, which includes smaller creatures not authorized, is closer to 20 million, according to a national census carried out by the veterinary association, AMVAC ( Asociación Madrileña de Veterinarios de Animales de Compañia ) in 2017 (in Spanish). This works out at an average of over one pet per Spanish household.

According to the census, the most popular pets in Spain were:

  • Birds (5. 3 million)
  • Dogs (5. 2m)
  • Fish (4m)
  • Cats (2. 3m)

There were also over two mil other pets, including ferrets, rabbits, reptiles, and hamsters.

Spain has rules prohibiting certain animals as pets, although these vary across the communities. For example , the Catalogue of Invasive Alien Species lists creatures including bullfrogs, Galapagos turtles, Argentine parrots, raccoons, some breeds of hedgehog, and porcupines. Owning any of these as a pet can lead to a fine of up to €2 million.

Historically, Spain has lagged behind many other European countries in terms of animal welfare. It scores a C on the 2020 World Animal Protection Index , including a D on protecting domesticated animals. However , the government recently created a Directorate-General for Animal Protection and has set about improving standards.

Spain now ranks 8th on the 2022 Dog-Friendly Country Index .

Pet laws in Spain

Many pet laws in Spain vary across the independent states, so check locally to avoid getting a fine or worse. Additionally , new national animal welfare laws came into effect in 2022. Pets are now considered sentient beings and cannot be seized, abandoned, mistreated, or removed from the owner without good reason. New laws also cover shared ownership if couples divorce or separate .

There are plans for further changes later this year, which includes:

  • Bans on putting animals down unless strictly necessary
  • No animals are used in circuses
  • Pet stores are no longer allowed to sell pets
  • Harsher penalties for animal abuse
  • Introducing a new national family pet ID scheme to help monitor pet ownership
Pet laws in Spain, dogs such as pitbulls must have a leash and wear muzzles in public

Of course , you must have suitable accommodation for pets as you cannot leave them on balconies or outside in exposed areas. Dogs must be kept on a lead in public places and are not allowed on most Spanish beaches.

The Horizontal Property Law vacation ( Ley de Propiedad Horizontal ) protects those in apartment blocks and communal buildings from noise and disturbance, including by pets. You’ll need to check the local pet laws if you live in this type of building.

Dangerous animals

Furthermore, animals in Spain, such as dogs and cats, must be registered, microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and have a health card. You must also have a special license for breeds of canines considered dangerous, and place all of them on the dangerous animals’ register ( Registro sobre Animales Potencialmente Peligrosos ). They need to wear a leash and muzzle in public. This applies to dogs, such as:

  • Pitbull terriers
  • Staffordshire bull terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • Fila Brasileiros
  • Akita-Inus

However , the proposed law changes include no longer categorizing any breed of dog as a dangerous animal.

Getting pets in Spain

Buying domestic pets

Buying new pets has become more heavily regulated in Spain. New rules will outlaw selling animals other than fish in Spanish pet stores. If you want to buy fish from a shop in Spain, you can search for shops on Europages or directory services, such as the Spanish Yellow Pages (in Spanish).

Woman walks her dog, dressed in a jacket, across a town square in Pamploma, Spain, while it is snowing.
Pamploma, Navarra, The country of spain (Photo: Eduardo Sanz/Europa Press/Getty Images)

Nevertheless , you can still buy household pets in Spain from licensed breeders or secondhand on websites like Milanuncios . If you decide to get an animal from a breeder, ensure they have a valid license. Like many other countries, Spain has a problem with unlicensed breeding and the illegal trading of animals. Again, laws and regulations vary across regions. For example , it is illegal for private parties not registered because animal centers to trade with pets in Catalonia .

Getting a pet from a shelter or even rescue center

With increased regulations on the pet trade, many animal lovers opt for the more responsible option of adopting a pet from an animal charity, shelter, or rescue center. Some places provide animals for free to vetted owners; others charge fees. These centers include:

You can also find details of other pet centers via your local municipality.

Woman adopting a rescue dog from an animal shelter

If you want to acquire a pet from these centers, you must prove your suitability. Typically, you will have to provide a form of identification (e. g., passport or residence card ) and pet ownership details (if applicable). The center will usually interview you and inspect your home to ensure a healthy and safe environment for animals.

Fostering a pet

Many animal welfare charities and organizations also offer fostering opportunities where you can look after an animal short-term. This can be a great way of deciding whether you can commit to adopting an animal. Again, the organization will probably want to interview you and inspect your home. If you adopt a pet in Spain, the particular host organization usually covers costs, such as vet bills. Some organizations like G. E. P. A will also pay food bills , if necessary.

Bringing or importing pets to The country

Pet immigration guidelines and restrictions

You can bring up to five pets to Spain. Canines, cats, and ferrets must be fitted with an ISO microchip and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel. Additionally , pets must be 15 weeks or older when they travel.

If you are from the European Union (EU) or a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country, your pet must have an EU passport . Pets from outside the EU/EFTA must have an animal health certificate (translated into Spanish) signed by an official veterinarian.

If your pet enters from the country with a high risk associated with rabies, it must have the titer blood test , one month after vaccination and three months before departure. This will assess its immune response to the virus.

Parrot sitting on veterinarian's shoulder

Birds need an INTRA-2 vet certificate (in Spanish) if coming from the EU/EFTA.

All other house animals , including reptiles or even other creatures, must have a good INTRA vet certificate if coming from EU/EFTA countries.

More information on pets other than dogs, cats, and ferrets is available on the Ministry of Agriculture website .

Where possible, you should travel with your dog to Spain. Otherwise, it should arrive within five days of your entry.

Domestic pets from outside the EU/EFTA region

From outside this area, you will need an animal health certification signed by a vet confirming that either:

  • The animal has undergone quarantine for 30 days before traveling to Spain
  • It will quarantine for 30 days upon arrival in Spain
  • It has been vaccinated towards avian flu at least 60 days before traveling
  • The bird was tested for avian flu and isolated for 14 days

Pets outside the EU/EFTA need to arrive at a designated passenger entry point (PEV) and be declared to the Civil Guard’s ( Cuerpo de la Guardia Civil ) tax department.

Traveling with pets

You can travel to Spain with pets simply by plane, train, or car. If you fly with pets, the airline will normally insist that you use a ventilated container that should be labeled carefully. You’ll also need to provide adequate food and water for the journey.

Woman travelling with pet waits in airport lounge, looking at her phone

The particular International Air Transport Organization (IATA) sets the rules regarding the approved types of pet travel containers and most global airlines follow these regulations. Read the  IATA requirements   before you travel with your family pet abroad.

On shorter flights (less than ten hours), many airlines will allow passengers to take their small cats or dogs in the cabin. 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, have a waterproof bottom, plus adequate ventilation.

The  Sherpa , Bergan, and  SturdiBag   pet carriers are all airline compliant as long as your pet fits comfortably.

There are different regional rules for traveling along with pets on Spanish public transport, so you will need to check before you use trains or buses.

Pet relocation companies

To make things simpler, you can use a pet relocation company that will deal with all the necessary paperwork and ensure the safe transportation of your pets. This is a good option if you’re unable to journey with your pets. Reputable companies providing services in Spain include:

Pet arrivals in the country

Fortunately, your pet won’t have to quarantine if you follow the rules and regulations. If a pet arrives without the required vaccinations, medical checks, and health certificates, the border authorities may quarantine it and even return it to the departure port. In extreme cases, they may euthanize the animal.

If your birds were not vaccinated or tested against avian flu nor quarantined for 30 days before arrival, they must quarantine for a month in Spain.

Registering pets vacation

All dogs and cats should be microchipped and registered in Spain at a local vet surgery. Processes and costs vary across the autonomous regions. Many pet charities and centers also offer microchipping services. Each state has its own register, but these are coordinated nationally by the Spanish Company Animal Recognition Network ( Red Española de Identificación de Animales de Compañía – REIAC ). Spain plans in order to introduce a national pet ID for dogs and cats to centralize the pet registration process.

If your pet has a legible ID tattoo dated before 3 July 2011, it doesn’t need a microchip.

If your pet is considered a dangerous animal in Spain, you must add them to the Dangerous Animals Register ( Registro de Animales Potencialmente Peligroso ). You can do this at your local town hall or online. There are plans to remove all breeds of dogs from this sign-up by the end of 2022.

Documents needed

You can also choose to chip and register some other pets in Spain. To complete registration, you will need:

  • Your ID, for example , a valid passport
  • Spanish NIE number
  • Your Spanish address and contact number
  • Proof of possession of your pet, if you have this
  • Pet health certificate or health card containing details of vaccinations, treatment, and checkups

Costs depend on regardless of whether your pet needs a new microchip and your local authority rates, but are usually between €15 to €50.

Pet passports in Spain

EU pet owners must now have pet passports when traveling with dogs, cats, or ferrets. The passports include:

  • Name and address of the animal owner
  • Description of the animal (breed, sex, age, color)
  • Microchip identification quantity
  • Rabies vaccination details (date, validity, type, name of the manufacturer, plus production number)
  • Address and signature from the veterinarian

You can get a pet passport from most licensed vets in Spain. The cost is usually between €50 to €100. To obtain a passport, you will need to provide:

  • Your valid IDENTIFICATION, for example , a passport
  • Spanish NIE number
  • Proof of address, for example , a recent utility bill
  • Rabies vaccination information
  • Microchip number

Pets from non-EU/EFTA countries

Getting EU dog passports in many non-EU/EFTA countries is possible if you want your pet to travel to Spain, although costs may be more expensive. However , the country does not require passports for animals from other countries. Still, you will need an official animal health certificate (translated into Spanish) signed by a licensed vet.

Pet insurance in Spain

Pet insurance isn’t a general requirement in Spain. However , it’s a worthwhile consideration to protect against medical costs or damage caused by a dog. In addition , you’ll need liability insurance coverage if you own a dog classified as a dangerous breed in Spain. This could be as part of a comprehensive pet insurance policy or under a general civil liability insurance plan. In some autonomous regions, for example , Madrid, all dog owners need pet liability insurance.

Another consideration is medical insurance to cover the expense of unexpected vet bills in case of injury or illness. Many insurers offer packages with different levels of coverage, from emergency surgery costs to all-inclusive policies for chronic, congenital, and hereditary conditions.

Companies providing pet insurance vacation include:

You can compare The spanish language pet health insurance offers upon Seguros Veterinarios .

Healthcare for pets in Spain

Veterinary services

Spanish vets should have a license from the General Council of Veterinary Colleges in Spain ( Consejo General de Colegios Veterinarios de España – CGCVE ). You can search for vets in your areas on the Spanish Yellow Pages ( Paginas Amarillas ) or local authority websites.

Vets performing an ultrasound on a cat at the vet surgery

You can find vets ( veterinarios ) all over Spain, usually in animal centers, clinics, and surgeries. They provide a variety of services, including:

  • Microchipping and issuing pet passports
  • Advice and information
  • Surgery
  • Emergency care
  • Checkups and examinations
  • Neutering and spaying
  • Animal dentistry

Vaccinations

All dogs and cats in Spain should receive a rabies vaccination plus follow-up booster jabs, which should be yearly. No other family pet vaccinations are mandatory in a national level, although some autonomous communities in Spain may have additional requirements for dogs and cats. Recommended vaccinations include:

  • Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Distemper, and Parvovirus vaccinations for dogs
  • Feline Gastroenteritis and Typhus vaccinations with regard to cats

Also, if you want to take your dog to a kennel when you are going on holiday, it may need a vaccination towards kennel cough (Bordetella Bronchiseptica).

Furthermore, all dogs and cats in Spain should have either a microchip or a health card containing up-to-date information about their vaccines.

Pet shops vacation

Although you can no longer buy most animals in pet shops in Spain, there are still an array of stores that sell supplies for pets, such as food, equipment, and toys. These include both high street stores and online retailers. Big names in Spain include:

You can search for stores on Europages or directory site services, such as the Spanish Yp ( Paginas Amarillas ).

Pet services vacation

You can find various businesses providing supplementary services for domestic pets in Spain. These include:

  • Grooming, care, and pampering solutions
  • Dog sitting or dog walking services
  • Boarding services such as kennels or catteries if you want to go on holiday
  • Pet portraits or photography

You can check regarding local services and compare prices on the PetBacker web site.

Lost pets in Spain

Losing a pet

If your dog goes missing in Spain, there are a few steps that you can take to find them:

  • Try any local animal shelters, rescue centers, or vets to see if it has been turned in or reported
  • Contact national lost family pet services such as Huellitas Perdidas or PetAlert
  • Report the incident to the nearby police in case someone has handed the pet into the local station or even alerted the local force
  • Inform local neighborhood and expat social media forums
  • Put up missing posters, which includes a contact number and a recent photo of your pet

It may be useful to know the Spanish word for:

  • Lost dog is perro perdido
  • Lost pet is mascota perdida
Vet scanning the microchip of a lost dog

There are precautionary measures that you can take to try and prevent losing your pet vacation. These are:

  • Ensuring that your pet is microchipped. This will make it easier to locate if it goes missing.
  • Placing a tag around the animal’s collar which includes the name, address, and contact number.

Finding a pet

If you find a dropped or stray pet, get in touch with local animal shelters, animal welfare organizations, or lost dog services. You should take it to some local vet if the pet appears ill or injured. Do not try and keep it as you may be fined, or worse, if authorities discover the family pet and you cannot prove that you searched for the owner.

Costs of keeping pets in Spain

Spain is a popular destination as it offers good quality living and fine weather. It is also more affordable than many nations in Northern Europe or the United States (US). However , you can still expect to pay a fair proportion of your income on regular bills and residing costs. Additionally , things are more expensive in bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona .

This also applies to pet expenses, with expenses comparing favorably with countries such as the United Kingdom (UK) and France but being pricier in metropolitan areas. Whatever pet you have vacation, you will have to budget for:

  • Equipment (bedding, cages, toys, leads)
  • Food
  • Vet bills
  • Insurance (optional)
  • Supplementary care costs

In addition , you have the initial one-off costs such as transportation, import, and registration, plus getting a passport if you intend to travel with your pet.

Examples of cost

As a rough guide, you can expect to pay average costs of:

  • €800 in order to €1, 200 for a dog
  • €500 to €700 for a cat
  • €300 to €500 for other pets

Selling a pet in Spain

If you have a pet in Spain and find that you can no longer look after it, you can take it to a local animal rescue center or shelter.

You can market pets in Spain, however , shops are now banned from selling most animals, so you will have to go private. You can do this through personal advertisements, for example , upon social media sites, local publications, or websites such as Milanuncios .

Tips when selling a pet in Spain include:

  • Providing the seller with all the necessary info regarding your pet’s registration, shots, and medical status
  • Meeting potential buyers in advance to ensure they can provide a safe and healthy home
  • Drawing up a purchase contract containing key details and the rights and responsibilities of the buyer and seller to protect both parties

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