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Europe for Pets

Maggie the bearded collie in Venice, Italy

ABOVE: Maggie, an American dog, makes friends in Venice, Italy.

When I was a boy traveling in Southern Europe with my parents, our family's collie was welcomed everywhere--from a deluxe hotel in Seville, where the local children cried "Lassie!", to the casino gardens in Estoril, Portugal.

In decades of subsequent visits to Europe, I've had many other occasions to witness the friendliness that most European countries display toward pets:

  • Dogs on trains (I once moved the tail of a German Shepherd from the aisle of a Swiss express train to save it from being stepped on).

  • Dogs on cable cars (more specifically, a massive Alsatian ascending to the Dachstein Glacier in Austria in the company of a German couple in matching checked shirts and Lederhosen).

  • Dogs in restaurants (My wife and I witnessed a dog being served dinner in a restaurant at the Bern, Switzerland train station, and a neighborhood eatery in Lagos, Portugal had a dog that happily accepted tidbits from the customers).

  • Dogs in stores (among them, a brace of whippets in a ZŁrich department store and an Old English Sheepdog that took up an aisle in a Salzburg stationery shop).

  • Dog-loving police and customs officials (most notably the French policeman who blew kisses at our wire-haired fox terrier as we took our dogs ashore from a Russian liner for a stroll in Le Havre).

  • Cats in Venice sleeping en masse on park benches, being fed by neighborhood residents, and being protected by an Italian law that gives them the right to spend their lives where they were born. (See my Cats of Venice and Venice's Oldest Cat? articles for more on Venetian friendliness toward felines.)

Granted, not all European business establishments (or even hotels) welcome pets. But in general, pets get more respect in Europe than they do in North America, and you'll find more places where you can take your dog or cat than you would at home.

Should you go through the hassle of taking your pet abroad? If you're going for only a few weeks, the answer is probably "no" unless you're driving or your dog or cat is small enough to travel with you in an airliner's cabin. However, if you're visiting Europe for an extended period, taking your pet with you is an option worth considering.

Things to know:

  • Check pet policies when making hotel or apartment reservations. Our hotel and vacation-rental partner, Booking.com, clearly identifies properties as being pet-friendly (or not, as the case may be).

  • Transportation can be tricky unless you're traveling by car. For information on European train travel with pets, click here. If you're flying, your choices may boil down to air cargo (expensive and inconvenient) or--if your pet is small and the airline is pet-friendly--bringing your pet into the cabin in a carrier. (Shipping your pet as checked baggage is more difficult than it used to be, and it's now forbidden altogether on some airlines.) Confirm your airline's pet policy before booking your own tickets.

  • For more information, see the links below.

Related Web links:

European Pet Passport
If you're a European national, you can get the European Pet Passport from your veterinarian. This will make it easier to cross the EU's internal borders with your pet. Also see Wikipedia's Pet Passport page.

European Commission: Movement of Pets from non-EU Countries
This page from the EC Web site's Movement of Pets section describes admission requirements for household animals (such as microchipping, rabies vaccination, and a health certificate).

Taking Your Pet Dog, Cat, or Ferret Abroad (for UK residents)
The British government shares post-Brexit information on pet travel to the EU and other foreign locations. If you're visiting from abroad, see Bringing Your Pet Dog, Cat, or Ferret to Great Britain.

APHIS Pet Travel
The United States Department of Agriculture offers advice on traveling abroad with a pet (and returning to the U.S. afterwards). Use the interactive database tool for country-by-country information.

O'Brien Animal Transportation & Services
When your dog, cat, or elephant goes flyin', leave the paperwork and other details to O'Brien.

Maggieinvenice.com
Our "Maggie in Venice" blog describes the adventures of an American dog, a Bearded Collie, in Venice, Italy.

Doggie Pubs
"Find out where you and your best friend are welcome."

The Sherpa Bag
A former TWA flight attendant developed this carry-on pet container for her Llasa Apso. Her bag is now officially approved by a number of major airlines.