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MOVING TO SWITZERLAND

All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland

Planning pet travel to Switzerland can be overwhelming at the best of times, and the last thing you want to do is overlook some details that will delay your reunion with your furry friend. We’ve compiled all the key information that you need before making the journey to the land of cheese and chocolate.

All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland
Photo by Raoul Droog on Unsplash

Passport

First things first: Whether you’re crossing the border in the company of a dog, cat or ferret, (for other animals see link at bottom of page) your pet must have an EU or EU-recognised pet passport from other European countries or territories (Switzerland, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Vatican City), if they originally came from those countries to enter Switzerland.

For countries outside Europe (including the United Kingdom), a veterinary certificate and owner’s declaration must to be presented in the place of a pet passport.

Note: A maximum of five pets can be brought into Switzerland under the current pet regulations.

Microchip

In addition to packing your pet’s passport, your furry companion will also need to be microchipped (ISO standard 11784, scannable with a reader according to ISO standard 11785) prior to getting a rabies vaccination.

Rabies vaccination

Since dogs, cats, and ferrets can introduce diseases from other countries, travel with these animals is subject to strict veterinary regulations to prevent animal diseases being brought into Switzerland.

Animals younger than 12 weeks of the above-named species do not have to be vaccinated against rabies. In any case, the owner must confirm by means of a written declaration that their pet has never come into contact with wild animals whose species is susceptible to rabies since birth. The latter includes but is not limited to bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets between 12 and 16 weeks old must be vaccinated against rabies. If said pet is to enter Switzerland earlier than 21 days after its vaccination, the owner must again provide the aforementioned written declaration.

In the case of young animals that accompany their mother and are still being suckled, no declaration from the owner is required if the mother can be proven to have been vaccinated against rabies before birth. Puppies up to 56 days old must be accompanied by their mother if they are to enter Switzerland.

Travelling to Spain with your dog

Travelling to Switzerland with your dog. Image: Tadeusz Lakota / Unsplash

Registration

Pets brought into Switzerland by air are checked at the red customs exit. Should the pet not meet the entry requirements, or the owner fail to provide the required documents, the animal will be taken to the border veterinary office in the freight area for an extensive examination. All resulting costs are the responsibility of the owner, so preparation is key!

When bringing your buddy into Switzerland by land via an EU country, it is necessary to register your pet with Swiss customs, and owners are advised to keep the receipts for proof and, if applicable, the payment of VAT.

As a dog owner you will further have to register your animal as well as yourself (as a dog owner) with the Swiss municipality that you reside in. Your veterinarian must additionally register your dog in Switzerland’s dog database (AMICUS) within 10 days of crossing the border.

Beware: It is prohibited to enter Switzerland with cropped or docked dogs (ears and/or tail). However, owners can consult with the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO ([email protected] or BLV, Postfach, 3003 Bern) regarding possible exceptions, such as short stays, other forms of holidays, or moving house.

After being taken over the border, it is prohibited to sell or hand over pets to new owners.

Dog Tax

While we’re on the topic of dogs, man’s best friend is taxed in Switzerland. The fees vary from canton to canton, with some charging a flat rate while others choose to tax according to your pet’s size and weight.

In 2011, the municipality of Reconvilier made headlines when it resurrected a law from 1904 that allowed the town to put down dogs if their owners didn’t pay the annual pet tax for their pooch. Luckily, this caused quite an uproar across the country and the law never saw the light of day. Still, taxes must be paid to this day. But on the flip side, poo bags are free! (Well, sort of…there’s a dog tax for that).

Dog Classes

On June 1st, 2022, Switzerland updated its dog law. The amended law sees that new dog owners who are looking to adopt a dog – whether it be a small or big breed – must take part in mandatory dog classes consisting of a two-hour course with an exam as well as a practical course comprising six lessons.

Everyone whose pooch crossed the border before May 31st is to adhere to the previous dog law, which dictates that puppies and young dogs take part in dog classes. Some adult large breed dogs must also be signed up. It is best to ask your local municipality for more details.

Swiss animal laws

Switzerland has some of the tightest animal welfare laws in the world and while this is great news for the animal world, it might mean that simply bringing along your single pet may go against the Swiss law.

If your furry friend happens to be a “social animal”, such as a guinea pig or parakeet, you will be required – by law! – to get your pet a friend for company. It is also essential to ensure that your pet’s cage is an appropriate size (I’m looking at you fish owners!).

For a comprehensive list on the Swiss import regulations for animals please CLICK HERE.

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MOVING TO SWITZERLAND

Seven tips to help you settle in Switzerland

Despite its many advantages - safety, education, and low taxes, to name but a few, Switzerland can be a tricky place for immigrants to navigate. Here are a few tips to help make you feel like a local rather than just a visitor.

Seven tips to help you settle in Switzerland

Learn the language
First things first: Whichever part of Switzerland you find yourself in, the way to the (notoriously reserved) Swiss people’s hearts is through language. It is no secret that immigrants who go that extra mile to fit in are more readily welcomed and accepted by the locals.

While those living in larger cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basel may very well have an easier time finding people willing to speak to them in English, after a while, the obvious becomes inevitable: If your goal is to feel at home in Switzerland, you best learn one (or more) of its four official languages to break the cultural gap.

READ ALSO: Is your French good enough for Swiss residency and citizenship?

So whether you left your home country equipped with a basic grasp of your new local language or find yourself having to start from scratch, the easiest way to get learning is to sign up for language classes – and if you have the funds, tailored private lessons will have you speaking the lingo of your choice in no time!

Go on mini adventures
One of the easiest ways you can combat those budding feelings of loneliness and start to feel more comfortable in your host country is to step outside and explore your immediate surroundings.

Speak to locals, colleagues and classmates and make a list of a few places in your area you would like to visit. Shopping malls, local cafes, town markets, museums and historical sights make a good starting point.

Pro tip: Sometimes, the best way to get familiar with a new environment is to get lost in it first. Why not try an off-the-beaten-path stroll around your new hometown?

Get volunteering and involved in the community
Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience for immigrants looking to integrate into a community, learn new skills, contribute to their new place of residence, and meet other foreigners and locals alike. Whether you have a heart for animals, enjoy teaching English, or wish to advance your career by volunteering for a large organisation, Switzerland has opportunities for everybody!

Visit Swiss Volunteers or SCI Schweiz to find upcoming volunteer events in your area and take the first step toward closing the gap between tourists and residents.

(Photo by angela pham on Unsplash)

Take up a social hobby that aligns with your interests
Even if your goal isn’t to meet new people immediately, there are many activities you can pursue that will get you out of your house and embrace the local culture.

Join cooking classes to learn how to cook up yummy national dishes (yes, they extend beyond fondue!), attend a nearby book club event and dive into Swiss literature (again, there’s more to it than The Swiss Family Robinson), or find yourself a local hiking buddy that may very well share the odd insider tip, because if there is anyone that knows the place you have moved to – it is the people that live there.

READ ALSO: ‘Peaceful coexistence’: How one Swiss canton helps foreign citizens integrate

Break a sweat for free
Exercise not only helps you feel good about yourself and boost your endorphin levels (yay!), but it also gives you a chance to connect with like-minded people that may even live in the same neighbourhood.

Now it’s a common misconception that your natural starting point is your nearest gym or sports club, and while getting a gym membership is an excellent way of linking up with fellow sports lovers, there are countless ways to keep fit without a hefty price tag.

Switzerland is, after all, a hiker’s paradise, making it just as common to meet people while taking in the beautiful Alps – whether on a hike, while out trekking, or enjoying a casual jog, as it is breaking a sweat at your local health club.

A man stands in front of the Matterhorn in the Swiss region of Zermatt

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash)

Get connected
There are arguably many disadvantages that come with modern technology, but if you find yourself in a new environment, logging into social media may not be the worst idea. 

Join a local community group on Facebook to keep up with upcoming events or clubs in your area, or use Instagram to your advantage and share your favourite pastime with fellow hobby enthusiasts.

And while out and about, why not check out your local mall’s bulletin board? You never know what you might find!

READ ALSO: All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland

Adopt man’s best friend
Dogs undoubtedly deserve the title of “man’s best friend”: they are loyal, intelligent, affectionate, and can boost our mental health and fitness. But besides providing their owners companionship (a big plus when moving to a new country), dogs can also help create human-to-human friendships and offer social support.

For those not in a position to get their own pup, consider picking up dog-walking, and you’ll find yourself bumping into neighbours and other dog walkers on the regular!

And lastly, give yourself time and be patient with yourself. Moving abroad is no small feat, so remember to give yourself credit for making such a giant leap!

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