Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bringing My Dog to Sweden

This is "Rabbit" a few years ago...A friend made her try on her dog's old Halloween costume.

Hurrah! At long last I have managed to bring my dog to Sweden! I am so happy, it's hard to even express my delight.

In November 2011, I wrote about how I was going to bring my dog to Sweden in the blog I wrote for I'll link to it here but I have to say that I got some things wrong about how it is done so be warned. Now that I have actually done it, I know a lot more.

My dog, who has the unusual name of "Rabbit"*, arrived at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm yesterday morning. She flew from San Francisco to New Jersey to Stockholm. Due to an extended layover in New Jersey (around 17 hours), I had to pay for boarding her at the airport during that time. This actually had the advantage of breaking up her flights and allowing her time out of the crate to drink, eat, and rest.

Amazing to think that on Tuesday night she was running up and down Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco and on Friday morning she was having a pee on Swedish grass.

Let me say, right away, that there is no longer a quarantine (at least for arrivals from approved countries) any longer so I could collect Rabbit right away at the airport. Personally, I wouldn't bring a dog from another country if there was still a 6 month quarantine the way there used to be.

Still, it was a lot of work and anxiety trying to get the process right. I found that I received different answers every time I asked the experts how it needed to work. I talked to United Airlines (with waits of over an hour in the phone queue at times), the Us Department of Agriculture, the Swedish Agricultural Board, Swedish Customs, Swedish Border Inspection at Arlanda, and the receiving Cargo company at Arlanda.

And there were many, many consultations with my veterinarian in the US. (They did a fantastic job and got everything letter-perfect. Here's a shout-out to my vet and her staff. You rock! How am I ever going to find your equivalent in Sweden?)

Rabbit came as cargo rather than as "excess baggage" a distinction that matters when it comes to importing the dog but no longer seems to matter to the airlines, or at least to United Airlines. In both cases, the dog is traveling in the cargo area but the difference is whether the dog is flying with a ticketed passenger or coming on its own. (It's all rather murky, isn't it?)

Here's how it worked:

1) My family bought a dog crate. It had to be much larger (and wider) than we initially thought because there needs to be 3 inches of clearance over the dog's head when they are traveling internationally. Rabbit only weighs 37 pounds (16 kg), but she is tall and thin, like a boxer or a whippet. She looked ridiculously small in that crate and I wonder if we couldn't have gotten away with a smaller size but we didn't want to risk them refusing her. My friend also bought food and water bowls that screw on to the inside of the door.

2) Rabbit had to get a vet exam and an exam by a USDA vet within 24 hours of the flight. This is harder to do than it sounds. This basically means these 2 things have to happen right before the flight, as in, on the same day. Rabbit had to be at the Cargo facility at SFO at 2pm. See why it was stressful and with little margin for error?

3) After many phone consultations, ordering of the proper Swedish forms, and my vet contacting the USDA in South San Francisco to make sure we were doing this correctly, my family took Rabbit to our vet at 9AM on the day she was to fly. She received a vet check and also an additional microchip that could be read internationally. She already had one but it could only be read by an American scanner.

After the vet appointment, my family drove the hour+ to the USDA vet appointment where they got the important papers stamped. Then they drove to United Cargo at the airport (luckily nearby) and filled out more forms, etc. I had long ago made the reservation for her to fly. Then it was time to leave Rabbit in her new crate, mournfully looking at them as they left and wondering what in the world was going on.

4) I had to call Arlanda Border Inspection with the dog's waybill number as soon as I got it to advise them Rabbit was arriving so that they could schedule a Swedish vet check.

5) After the aforementioned break in New Jersey, Rabbit arrived on Friday morning. I was disappointed to find out that even though the plane came in around 7:30AM, I wouldn't be able to start the collection process till 10AM due to the time it takes for them to process the dog, do the vet check, etc. As soon as Border Inspection receives the dog, they immediately take it to a special reception area for that species (dogs, cats, reptiles, fish, birds) (wait a minute, a fish area...really?) and give it water, a chance to relieve itself, and food if specified by the owner. So at least she wasn't stuck waiting for a chance to come out of the crate.

6) A Swedish friend drove me to the airport since I don't have a car. We had to stop at a security checkpoint to get into the cargo area. This involved the car being searched. Then we took ourselves and our backpacks through a security screening process similar to what passengers go through only not nearly as strict. I realized later that I had a small knife on my keychain and water for the dog-items that wouldn't have made it through passenger security.

7) After Security, we drove around for awhile, looking for the right Cargo company. After going in and asking at the wrong place, we received directions on how to find it.

8) At the Cargo company, we picked up the paperwork that was ready and waiting. I had been extremely nervous up to this point because there were some gray areas where the microchip was concerned and I lived in fear that they would reject her from the country or something. But since the papers were ready, I assumed we had passed that hurdle already and things were fine.

They assured me that Rabbit was doing great and resting comfortably but I couldn't see her yet. I had to then take the paperwork across the airport to Customs. This required leaving the secure area, finding our way through countless rotaries (Sweden does love a good rotatry or "rondel.") and finding the Customs building.

9) I wondered around in the building where every floor said "Customs" but had a locked door. After asking several people, I found the right door (next door to where I was) and took my papers in. It took 20 minutes or so to get the Customs paperwork done but thank goodness it didn't cost anything as she is my personal pet that I owned before coming to Sweden.

10) Then I took the customs paperwork back to Cargo which required us to repeat the whole car inspection process. But they looked like they were used to seeing the same people more than once. Business as usual.

11) Back at Cargo, they immediately brought around a trailer that had the crate on it. And there was Rabbit! She caught sight of me and started whining. I immediately let her out and she danced and jumped and twisted around my legs. I can't imagine what she was thinking. She hadn't seen me since I visited in April, had been put onto the plane by completely different people...and then arrived to see me. How confusing!

I don't mind saying that I cried...with relief, with gratitude, with love for my special dog.
Rabbit eats her first Swedish meal after arriving.

Now Rabbit has been here for 30 hours or so. She is calm but I think she has doggy jet lag. I wonder if everything smells strange to her. She hasn't met any Swedish dogs yet, wonder what she'll think of them?

Here she enjoys her new Swedish bed.

Welcome to Sweden, Rabbit!

* Rabbit is a mixed breed that I got from a shelter. She's 6 years old.


  1. What a palaver! But all's well that ends well.

    1. Thanks for commenting. And thanks for teaching me a new word "palaver." I had to look it up. I like new words.

    2. We tend to use it to mean a lot of unnecessary fuss and kerfuffle - do you use that? - so when I looked it up to see what you may have found I saw that it used to relate to mostly speech - which was not what I intended!

    3. I took it to mean what you meant. (after lots of other definitions relating to speech said "tedious or time-consuming business, esp when of a formal nature: all the palaver of filling in forms." Cool, now I can use a new word!

  2. Ha,ha,ha Kristin it might have been way easier to go out and get a new dog?!!! ;o)

    1. True, so true. Believe me, I thought about it. But Rabbit is a very special dog and also she is my responsibility. I couldn't just abandon her...She is doing great and is riding the subway and everything!

    2. Ha,ha I was only joking I know you wouldn't want to abandon your baby!! :o) Glad she is adjusting the "posh" Swedish life now! ;o)

    3. Yup, she's a calm, cool, detached Stockholm dog now...Too cool for obedience school...

  3. Awwww, so glad you have been reunited with Rabbit! Well done!

    1. Thanks fotboll fru (translating your German to Swedish). Rabbit is adjusting to the European way of different from the dog parks of California...

  4. Hi Kristin,

    I loved reading about bringing Rabbit over as I am relocating to Stockholm from Melbourne, Australia at the end of October this year and am thinking of bringing over my dog Pixel.

    I have been told many different things by different pet transportation people here. My main concern is that one company told us the vet check and customs duty in Sweden would cost 1500AUD as "Sweden has some of the highest tax in the country" whilst another company said that quote was ridiculous and it usually costs about 100-150AUD.

    So, hopefully you can help me out here, how much did you have to pay at customs for Rabbit? If you don't mind me asking!

    Let me know if email would be a better way to contact.

    And how has Rabbit settled in now? I am also worried about the winters for my little Pix. She is a sun loving chihuahua...!


  5. Hi LLT,

    Thanks for commenting. I hope you are reading my current expat blog on because it will have some good info about adjusting to life here in Sweden. As to the dog importing...Alas, I think it really does matter who happens to handle the paperwork on any given day. It's really confusing. I did not pay anything at Customs for her because she was my pet in my home country. Make sure they understand that. However, I got the impression that the woman processing my papers was not really experienced in dogs coming into the country. However, I was taken by surprise at the cost of receiving the dog by the shipping people at Arlanda and how much it cost for the obligatory vet check and care in the first several hours. (They don't immediately release the dog after she lands but first feed, water, let her pee...then vet check...then paperwork...then you can arrive and start doing your paperwork and customs and fee paying. I think it cost me around 5000 kr. HOWEVER, since you have a chihuahua, she is probably traveling with you on the plane and not by herself in the hold, so then the process is different. I believe, but I'm not 100% sure that it is different if you are traveling WITH the dog (I did not.) Then the admittance to the country is different and I think, cheaper. But there shouldn't be Customs costs...just other costs. Call Arlanda Airport directly and ask.

  6. Hi Kristin,

    Thanks so much for this info - I undertsand now. My bf spoke with customs and they said it does not cost anything because she is my pet here in Australia. However, the outrageous expense the pet carriers were warning me about is the obligatory vet check and care. 5000 kr + sounds about right, however they were quoting me about 10 000 kr (!!!) I will call Arlanda Airport to confirm. As I am travelling from Australia all animals must leave as cargo unfortunately. And Pixel will be doing the same thing as Rabbit - coming a couple of months later.

    Thanks again for your information - it was extremely helpful. And yes I have been reading and enjoying your blog!

    1. Hey LTT...I can't wrangle your email address out of this system...wanna send it to me and I will reply offline? I will delete it from your comment as soon as I see it. You can also spell out "at" so it is not recognized by search bots as an address...

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Do you have any idea what time roughly you ended up leaving the Airport? I've got my cat flying into Arlanda at 7 and we fly in at 8.30 in the morning. We were hoping to book the the train straight from Arlanda to Linköping but I'm beginning to think we won't be done before at least 11, and the next train that doesn't require transfers with all our suitcases and a cat isn't until 2.17. Bit of a long wait with a nervous cat that's just flown from Australia! Like LTT, she will be flying as cargo.

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