Pets from Ukraine

Exceptions from the rules apply to pets från Ukraine who enter Sweden together with their owners. This means that we assess on a case-by-case basis which measures are necessary.

The assessments are primarily about how great the risk is that the animal carries rabies and how that risk should be managed so that public health or animal health in Sweden is not endangered. Ukraine is a high-risk country for rabies and has several cases in both dogs and cats every year.

We work to ensure that as many people as possible can bring their pets to Sweden while ensuring that we do not get rabies into the country.

This is what happens to the animal when it comes to Sweden:

  • The animal meets the requirements for entry: The animal is allowed to stay freely in Sweden.
  • The animal does not meet all the requirements for entry: The animal may be isolated in the home for a period of time, a maximum period of 4 months in so-called home isolation.
  • The few animals that for some reason cannot be isolated at home: The Swedish Board of Agriculture helps with isolation space, maximum period in isolation is 4 months.

The information on this page applies to dogs, cats and ferrets. The exception rules only apply if the pet comes to Sweden with its owner who is a refugee from Ukraina or comes with another person, in connection with the owner's escape to Sweden, and there is a completed pet owner declaration. In the cases below, it is the ordinary rules that apply instead. You can read about them under the heading Rules for importing animals under normal circumstances.

  • The animals come with a person other than its owner. There is no pet owner declaration or the pet owner does not travel to Sweden in connection with the animal's journey.
  • The pet owner brings more than 5 animals.
  • The pet owner brings with him pets to be sold, re-homed, or the animal changes ownership.

Contact customs or veterinarian at the Swedish border

When pet owners arrive at the border with their pets, they must report the pets to the customs staff or to a veterinarian, if one is present. If the pets do not meet the requirements for entering Sweden, the customs staff will contact the Swedish Board of Agriculture. We go through the pet's documents and ask the pet owner about the pet in order to be able to assess what needs to be done. Due to the emergency situation where people are fleeing war, the documents available will vary.

If there is a veterinarian present, it is the veterinarian who goes through the pet's documents and asks questions to the pet owner, in order to be able to assess what needs to be done.

Pets that have not been checked at the Swedish border must be taken to a veterinarian

If a pet from Ukraine is in Sweden without having been checked by customs staff or a veterinarian at the border, the pet must be taken to a veterinarian within a month or as soon as possible. The veterinarian then checks the pet and its documents.

It is important to contact the veterinarian in advance, as the pet must not come into contact with other pets or visitors at the clinic.

You can contact any veterinarian. We do not have contact information for all veterinarians, but here is contact information for our district veterinarians.

The Swedish Board of Agriculture is responsible for the cost of the visit, i.e. basic fee, possible ID marking, blood tests with antibody analysis, and other measures that we decide on.

If the animal is acutely ill or injured and needs to be treated for animal welfare reasons, the animal owner must pay for the treatment. In cases where the animal owner cannot afford to have the animal treated, the Swedish Board of Agriculture can bear the cost of euthanasia.

The pet often needs to be isolated for a shorter or longer period of time

If it is not possible to ensure that the animal is protected against rabies, then the animal needs to be isolated. It can be either home isolation or isolation at a special facility.

If the animal is isolated while waiting for an answer to an antibody test, and the test result then shows a sufficient amount of antibodies against rabies, the isolation is usually only a couple of weeks.

If the animal has not been vaccinated, or the test result shows too low an amount of antibodies, the isolation will be four months. It can be several months before an animal that has been infected with rabies shows symptoms. Only after four months we can be sure that the animal does not have rabies.

In rare cases, the Swedish Board of Agriculture may need to make a decision to euthanize animals that for various reasons can neither be home-isolated nor isolated at a special facility, for example because they are too sick.

Home isolation

Home isolation means that an animal may only meet animals and people who are part of its own family and who have already been in contact with the animal. This is to see that the animal is healthy and does not risk infecting new animals and humans. Together we can stop rabies and avoid getting the disease into Sweden.

This applies to home isolation.

The animal must live with its owner

Animals that have received a decision on home isolation must live with their owner during the isolation period. It is therefore not possible for another person to take care of the animal in their home while the animal owner lives elsewhere.

The animal must not come into contact with other people or animals

Only those who live in the household where the animal is isolated may come into contact with it. For example, you may not take the animal to a place where other people or animals may come into contact with it. You must also not invite people home who may come into contact with the animal. If the animal owner has several animals, all animals must be isolated from other animals and humans during the same time period.

The animal must be walked on a leash or harness

The animal may only be walked on a leash or harness, separate from other animals. It must not be walked where there is a great risk of encountering dogs off the leash or other animals, for example in a public park.

The animal may not be sold or given away

You may not sell, re-home/give away or donate the animal to another person who will be responsible for it during the time of home isolation.

The animal must not change address

It is not permitted to change address during home insulation. If you and the animal still have to move, you must contact the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

No new animals

No new animals may come into the household during isolation.

If the animal shows signs of rabies, bites someone or dies

If the animal shows signs of rabies, bites another animal or human or dies during the isolation period, you should contact a veterinarian directly and tell them that the animal comes from Ukraine and is in home isolation.

Emergency veterinary visits only

The animal may only visit a veterinarian if it is acutely ill or if there is an appointment for a blood test to check that the animal has antibodies to rabies. You must then tell the veterinarian before the animal comes from Ukraine and is in home isolation.

Necessary transports

If it is necessary to transport the animal, for example to a veterinarian, the animal should primarily be kept in a separate space so that it does not come into contact with other animals or people. It can, for example, be an approved animal transport vehicle or luggage compartment of a suitable vehicle such as that of a combi car. Secondarily, the animal should be kept as separate as possible from other animals and people. If the animal travels by public transports, such as bus or train, the dogs must wear a muzzle or be in a pet carrier cage (smaller dogs). Cats should be in a pet carrier cage.

The home isolation is checked

The Swedish Board of Agriculture can make a check of the home isolation to ensure that the animal owner follows the rules.

Isolation at a special facility under official supervision

The special isolation facilities have knowledgeable staff who take good care of the animal. The animal gets its own room with an associated enclosed outdoor area. If more animals come from the same family, they can sit together.

The isolation at the facility is paid for by the Swedish Board of Agriculture. However, the animal owner must pay for veterinary care outside the facility if necessary and for the collection of the animal when the time for isolation is over.

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to visit your animal during the isolation period. You will of course be contacted regarding the animal if there is anything you should need to know.

The pet owner receives more detailed information when deciding on isolation.

No alternative to vaccinate at the border or test if the pet has rabies

Many people wonder why we cannot vaccinate the pets at the border. But it is not an option because the pet may already be infected and vaccination only works preventively.

It is also not possible to test at the border if the pets have rabies. Rabies can only be detected in dead animals because brain material must be examined.

Rules for importing animals under normal circumstances

Here are the rules for importing dogs and cats to Sweden under normal circumstances, without the temporary exception rules for animals from Ukraine:

Pets and pet owners returning to Ukraine

Dogs, cats and ferrets that are to return to Ukraine must be both ID marked and vaccinated against rabies. The pet owner must contact a veterinarian who can do this. The pet owner pays for the vaccination himself, while the Swedish Board of Agriculture pays for the ID marking.

It is Ukraine that requires ID marking and vaccination.

At the time of vaccination, a veterinary certificate is issued, which can be presented at the border crossing. EU passports are not issued to Ukrainian pets travelling with refugees.

Pet owners who want to go back without bringing their pet that is in home isolation

When a pet owner with a pet in home isolation wants to return to Ukraine temporarily without taking his pet with him, the pet owner must contact the Swedish Board of Agriculture. It is not allowed to move the pet to another person. However, it is possible to

  1. obtain permission from the Swedish Board of Agriculture to hand over the pet to someone who lives at the same address where the pet is isolated
  2. obtain permission from the Swedish Board of Agriculture to instead isolate the pet at a special facility under official supervision.

Contact the Swedish Board of Agriculture

Regardless of whether the pet owner brings his pet to Ukraine or not, he should contact the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

Questions and answers

What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease that can affect both humans and animals. In Europe foxes are the most common carrier of the disease. Foxes can in turn infect other animals such as dogs and cats, but also humans. However, rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the EU, and Sweden has been free of rabies since 1886.

In countries where rabies is more common, it can be seen that people are usually infected by dogs and cats. The disease is spread via saliva, for example if you are bitten or licked on the face or on a skin wound.

The incubation period for rabies, i.e. the time between infection and symptoms, can be several months. The disease is almost always fatal when symptoms have begun to appear.

Read more on our page about rabies.

What are the regular rules for bringing pets from Ukraine to Sweden?

  • ID-marking is required for the animal to be linked to, for example, a vaccination certificate.
  • Rabies vaccination is required for the animal to develop antibodies that protect against rabies. It normally takes about three weeks.
  • Antibody test (titre test) is required to check that the animal has received adequate protection after vaccination. This can be done no earlier than 30 days after vaccination. Some animals are less able to produce antibodies and do not get enough protection from a vaccination. They may need to be vaccinated several times.
  • A four-month waiting period after vaccination (three months after antibody testing) is required to wait the incubation period in animals that have been vaccinated for the first time and may have become infected just before vaccination. This is required when importing from countries where it is relatively common for pets to be infected with rabies, such as Ukraine.

Read more on our pages about bringing pets into Sweden.

Why must Ukrainian animals vaccinated in Poland be kept in isolation in Sweden while Polish animals avoid it?

In Poland and other EU countries, rabies in pets is uncommon. We therefore assume that Polish animals vaccinated in Poland do not have rabies virus in their bodies when they are vaccinated. Then it is enough with a rabies vaccination and that you wait until antibodies are produced, which takes about three weeks.

In Ukraine, on the other hand, rabies sometimes occurs in pets. There is therefore a risk that animals from Ukraine may have been infected with rabies before leaving Ukraine, i.e. before being vaccinated in Poland.

If an animal from Ukraine was not vaccinated when it left Ukraine, but was vaccinated in Poland (or another EU country), we treat it in the same way as if it had been completely unvaccinated. We do this because it may have been infected before it left Ukraine and then it does not help that it is vaccinated in Poland. The animal must then be isolated for four months in Sweden so that we can be sure that it does not develop symptoms of rabies.

If an animal has antibodies against rabies, how do you know that they come from vaccination and not from the animal being infected?

Antibody tests cannot be used to find out if an animal has a rabies infection. It can only be used to check antibodies after vaccination. If a blood test shows that an animal has antibodies, it is always considered to be antibodies from vaccination. Antibodies from an infection cannot be detected until the animals are already showing symptoms. If an animal is infected before being vaccinated against rabies, the vaccination does not protect against the disease. The animal can then develop antibodies at the same time as it has the virus in its body. After vaccination, you therefore need to wait a period corresponding to the incubation period (4 months) before you can be sufficiently sure that the animal does not have the virus in its body. The entry requirements therefore include a waiting period of 4 months between the vaccination and entry.

Why not rabies test the animals at the border?

There is no test you can do to find out if a living animal has rabies. You can only diagnose rabies in dead animals because you have to examine brain material.

Why are the animals not vaccinated against rabies in Sweden?

In the case of animals from Ukraine, there is the greatest risk that the animal has become infected while it was in Ukraine. Vaccinating the animal at the Swedish border or when it has entered Sweden is therefore not meaningful, the vaccine does no good then.

Vaccination is a preventive measure that protects against becoming infected, it is not a cure or protection against further spread if the animal is already infected. If the animal is unvaccinated when it arrives in Sweden, or has been vaccinated during the trip to Sweden, it therefore needs to be kept in isolation.

If the animal owner later has to go with the animal back to Ukraine or to another country, the animal needs to be vaccinated before that trip.

Do you need to vaccinate Swedish dogs and cats?

As there are now many pets coming along with refugees from Ukraine, this probably means an increased risk that we will bring rabies-infected animals into the country, albeit at a low level. With the measures we take, however, the risk of further spread to Swedish animals is very low. There is therefore no need for a general recommendation or requirement for rabies vaccination of Swedish dogs or cats.

However, if you are going to travel to another country, your animal needs to be vaccinated.

People who have been exposed to rabies virus are treated with rabies vaccinations and antibodies. Why do we not do the same with animals?

There are no clear research results that show that such treatment after exposure works as well on dogs as it does on humans. There is a great risk that the virus multiplies in the animal and the animal instead infects other animals and people.

How do other countries handle dogs and other animals from Ukraine?

EU countries handle animals from Ukraine in different ways. There are several factors that affect what a country can do:

  • the number of places in the country where the animals can enter
  • laws that affect what the country may do
  • how much money a country can set aside for, for example, animal isolation and veterinary costs
  • how much practical resources are available in the form of isolation rooms, control staff, veterinarians and the like.

There is both isolation in government premises and home isolation. Some countries vaccinate all animals while others choose not to do so. All countries try to identify and isolate the animals for four months until the risk of rabies is over.

In Sweden, we have chosen to have a balanced management where we take into account the humanitarian needs, while ensuring that we continue to have good infection control that prevents us from getting serious diseases such as rabies.

Revision date: 2023-02-22