Monday, June 6, 2011

Importing dogs to Malta + Traveling to & Visiting Malta with Dogs

updated October 2012 to include that Air Malta allows small pets in the cabin. updated July 2012 to include new pet friendly facilities in Malta and new resources. updated December 2011 to include new pet import rules in effect as of January 2012

When we moved to Malta in the autumn of 2010 leaving our dogs in Canada was simply not an option for us. They are our family. You wouldn't ditch a family member if you were moving, would you?

Well, maybe you would.

Anyway, at that time the old pet import rules still applied and we had to crawl through a lot of bureaucratic procedures, fill out a lot of paper work, and visit the vet often before Ellie and Winn could make the journey with us. They were spayed, vaccinated, blood tested, microchipped and registered - a process which took six months start to finish.

In the autumn of 2010 they finally got the green light to make the seventeen hour journey by plane to Malta with us.  Shortly after arriving in Malta our dogs got their EU Pet Passports, and became more officially European citizens then we are.

Moving two dogs to a small island on the other side of the world was frightening and complicated. We are happy to answer any questions that expats (current or soon-to-be) have about the process.

The hassle of bringing our dogs to Malta was, in the end, totally worth it. And they have adjusted beautifully to the change. We still get the same strange looks when we walk them in public (Dachshund x Chihuahua cross dogs are not very common in Malta). Strangers still ask to pet and hold them. And they probably miss green grass a little, but they are relishing the increased amount of sunlight. And did we mention our dogs now have collar tans? Yes. Collar tans.

Importing Pets to Malta

Pet import rules in Malta are changing. As of January 1st, 2012 Malta will be harmonising its pet import rules with the rest of the EU. What does this mean for you? It will be easier and cheaper for you to travel to Malta with your pets (dogs, cats and ferrets too!)

Other countries also harmonizing their rules include the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden.

Under the new rules all pets must still have a rabies vaccination prior to importation (it's always a good idea to have anyway) but pets from the EU and listed non-EU countries (including the US, Canada and Australia) will no longer require a post vaccination blood test. This used to mean a minimum six month wait between vaccination, blood test, and importation, but no more!

As of January 1st, 2012 pets can now travel to Malta (and other affected countries) just 21 days after their rabies vaccination. Pets from non-listed EU countries (including India, Brazil and South Africa) will still be subject to the blood test requirement but the wait between vaccination and blood test has been shortened to only three months.

Pets imported from any approved country must still have an EU Pet Passport or equivalent third-country documentation.

The government body responsible for pet import regulations in Malta is the Department of Fish and Farm Regulation Control. This department has recently published updated documentation which reflects these new rules. You can read more here.

Tips for Importing your Pets to Malta

If you are considering importing or travelling with your pet to Malta the very first thing you should do is email an official at the FFRC Department to verify import requirements and to ask for any relevant paperwork that must be filled out prior to your arrival.

If you are confused about any requirements or about any of the paperwork ask questions until you get a satisfying answer. In our experience, the staff at the FFRC Department are very happy to help you – they want to ensure a smooth importation process for you because ultimately it makes their jobs easier too.

Try to work with a veterinarian in your home country who is familiar with the import procedures for animals to Europe (ideally to the UK or Malta). Our Canadian veterinarian was not familiar with these procedures. As a result, our importation paperwork was incorrectly filled out and our dogs had to spend two days in quarantine when they first arrived in Malta. Not fun.

Remember to get in touch with the Fish and Farming Regulation Control Department in Malta to notify them of your arrival. You will be asked to provide your flight or ferry number, and the date and time of your arrival. An animal inspector will meet you at the airport or seaport to verify that you meet all import requirements before your pet is allowed entry into the country.

Living in Malta with Dogs

What is it like living with pets in Malta? We have found pet related services in Malta to be as good, if not better, than in Canada. Our vet in Msida is fantastic. Our vet provides great service and mostly the same brands of pet pharmacueticals that we are used to. Our vetrinary bills are also substantially lower than in Canada (Canada-$100 vet visit vs. Malta-$20 or Euro 15).

For information about protecting your dog against the lethal Leishmaniasis (sandfly disease) in Malta, read this blog post.

We also love our boarding kennel, where our dogs are very well taken care of when we go abroad (boarding is also cheaper than in Canada). Before boarding your pets at a kennel in Malta they must be up to date on their vaccinations, dewormed and treated for fleas & ticks (whether or not they have them) 48 hours prior to visiting the kennel. This means a visit to the vet before each kennel visit, therefore it's wise to find a vet clinic in your area if you plan to travel often.

There are plenty of pet supply stores in Malta and you can purchase basic food and treats at any supermarket. They have many of the same pet food brands in Malta as they do in Canada, the US and the UK.

We received some push back from real estate agents when attempting to find pet friendly properties to let in Malta. Our best advice is to be nice but firm with your agent - after all, it's their job to find you a property. Also, kill them with kindness. We offered pet references up front and we were also willing to pay a pet damage deposit if necessary (it wasn't). Acknowledging that you are willing to do a little work on your end to get a good pet friendly pad always helps. But definitely don't settle for less, or allow your agent to talk you into a property that your gut tells you is wrong, because 'it's so rare to find a pet friendly property in this area!' We found one, twice, and are glad we didn't settle when our agents pressured us to. For more information about our experience renting property in Malta you can check our this blog post.

Is Malta dog friendly? I would say it’s as dog friendly as you, the pet owner, chose to make it. There is a different dog-culture in Malta than there is in Canada; this has certainly been an adjustment for us. Not everyone cleans up after their dogs here. Stray dogs are also common, and responsible pet ownership is not always practiced. The result of all of this is a much different perception of dogs and dog owners than we were used to in Canada. We do our best to improve this perception by leashing and socializing our dogs, by always cleaning up after our dogs, and by raising awareness of responsible pet ownership by volunteering with groups such as the SPCA Malta.

Malta has recently put into effect legislation which bans dogs from all sandy beaches and swimmer’s zones on the island. Read more about the beach-ban here. Dogs are also banned from many (but not all) public parks. Previously, we wrote/lamented about the lack of pet friendly facilities in Malta. But this is slowly changing. As of this writing (May 2012) leashed pets are now allowed in the Ta Qali National Park (where they were formerly banned - a small triumph for pet owners!) And there is now also a brand new dedicated off leash park and agility training center for dogs in Ta Qali. And as ever, pet owners, trainers, the SPCA Malta and Dogs Trust Malta are working diligently to create an even more pet friendly atmosphere on the island.

Visiting Malta with your Dog

If you are considering visiting Malta on holiday with your dog, or moving her permanently – don’t be discouraged by the complicated import rules and beach bans! There are still endless things to do in Malta with your dog. Dogs are permitted on public buses (Arriva), provided they are carried in suitable containers or carriers and held on the accompanying person's lap. Dogs are also welcome to walk along the beautiful coastal promenades which stretch from Gzira to Bugibba. You can also take your dog in any of the public parks in Sliema, the island's tourist hot-spot, thanks to recent legislation by the Sliema Local Council. Dogs can also take a stroll in the historic capital of Valletta, in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk for the traditional Sunday market, or they can hike along the Dingli Cliffs.

While dogs are not permitted on sandy beaches in Malta they are allowed on the large expanses of rocky coast on this little island, a great place to explore warm pools of water and local vegetation. But remember, your dog is not permitted in the water in any swimmer's zone (marked off) on sandy or rocky beaches.

Fido can also join you on a day trip to Gozo; you are welcome to take your (leashed) dog on the ferry to Gozo at no extra cost. We’ve also found that many outdoor restaurants and caf├ęs will allow us to sit for a meal or a drink with our dogs under our table (particularly in Xlendi Bay, Gozo). All you have to do is ask.

In the winter we take our dogs to Ghajn Tuffieha beach for off leash runs. There is a great hiking path there and it appears to be the beach that dog owners frequent most often on the island. It's also less busy than Golden Bay or Ghadira beaches. We've also taken them to Buskett Gardens which is a good, quiet place to let them run off some energy, especially in the winter when we know there won't be many visitors for them to disturb.

There are at least 10 hotels in Malta which allow dogs and they fit every budget. These include the Le Meridien in St Julian’s, the Sliema Hotel, and the Bayview Hotel and Apartments in Gzira. If you are a pet owner travelling to Malta holiday short lets are also a great option; there are many holiday rental properties that allow pets throughout both Malta and Gozo.

Dogs can be transported to Malta on airlines such as Lufthansa (in the cabin/cargo), Air Malta (in the cabin/cargo), and on Virtu Ferries from Sicily. Remember, when flying or taking the ferry to Malta, contact the FFRC Department to notify them of your arrival and arrange for an inspection of your pet and importation documents.

We've also written about pet air travel to/from the UK in this blog post.

If you are coming to Malta between June and September you should be considerate of the heat. Temperatures average around 35°C or 95°F in the summer. Dogs should never be left in cars or hot hotel rooms, and make sure to keep your pet well hydrated. And do as the locals do – the best times to be outside are early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Your dog will thank you for avoiding the mid-day sun!

 - Mike + Jess 


p.s. We've recently discovered the new web site CanineMalta.com, where you can also find a wealth of information about pet friendly places to swim, eat and walk with your dog in Malta, a directory of local pet services, pet forums and classifieds, and articles by local animal experts.

28 comments :

  1. I've enjoyed your stories and pictures so much; I lived in Malta from 1956-59 when the Brits had a navy;-)
    I've lived in Turkey for 14 years now, loving every bit of it; you can find me at http://archersofokcular.com
    Good luck to you and I'll be following your adventures. Alan

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  2. Can not thank you enough for this post – SO VERY HELPFUL!!

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    1. You are very welcome! If you have any other questions don't hesitate to get in touch.

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  3. Thanks Jess . . . we're moving (along with our two sweet boxers) June 26th, so as it gets closer I may take you up on that offer! :)

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  4. Hey,

    My girlfriend arrives here on the 29th of February with our 2 dogs. She is traveling by car and boat.

    You say the we need to get in touch with a local vet to make sure we have everything up to date. Is there any particular vet I should go to or does it matter?

    They've been vaccinated and micro-chipped so hopefully everything is smooth sailing!

    Neil.

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    1. Hi Neil,

      When we imported our dogs to Malta from Canada our Canadian vet was not familiar with the European Pet Import rules. As a result our paperwork was filled out incorrectly and we were quarantined for a couple of days. This is why I would encourage you to try to find a vet in your home/originating country who is familiar with European Pet Import (specifically Maltese/UK) Rules. You might have to call around to find out which vets are.

      If you are asking about which vets to contact in Malta, in our experience they are all very good and are all familiar with the Pet Import Rules. Any one will do, although we would recommend our vet: Animal Aid Veterinary Clinic in Msida. They are great.

      In either case you should contact the FRCC Department to double check you have anything in order, and to notify them of your pet's arrival on the island. If you have followed all of the pet import rules to the T you should be OK!

      Best of luck, if you have any other questions please don't hesitate to get in touch.

      Jess

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  5. Hey Jess,

    Thanks for the information, you've been a huge help. Just going to wait to hear back from the FRCC dept. Our vet at home seems well in tune with the latest regulation and he was very helpful in the days leading to my departure. Hopefully everything is smooth sailing and you never know, we might meet on a walk or at the boarding kennels (when it decides to stop raining).

    Neil.

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    1. That would be lovely, do let us know how you get on!

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  6. I came across your blog on From Portland to Peonies. My husband and I are planning on moving to Shanghai this year for my grad school program, and we're deciding between leaving our pup with my parents' or taking him with us (though i'm a little worried about the flight/possible cargo shipment and quarantine period). It's nice knowing other people have imported their pets with them.

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  7. Hi Guys,
    I am considering a job offer to move to Malta but my worry is the dog issue !
    We have 2 border collies who require lots of exercise off leash !! is this an issue in Malta ?? I'm thinking this could be the biggest issue moving to island !
    Any advice would be mucho appreciated !

    Cheers

    Chris

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    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for visiting our blog. We've had other readers contact us with the same worry before, so I'll be updating this post (or creating a dedicated post) accordingly.

      As you've read, there is, unfortunately, no dedicated off leash park in Malta. But there are certainly places to take your dog off leash in Malta. According to Maltese law dogs must be leashed at all times, so you just have to be clever about it. Depending on where you live (e.g. Sliema, St. Julians - more densely populated), you will likely end up having to drive to get to an appropriate (e.g. deserted-ish) place. We hear Buskett Gardens, Pembroke, and hiking trails in the rural areas (Ghajn Tuffieha, Ghar Lapsi, Wied Babu) are good spots to go. If you don't mind driving to some of these areas, you will be fine. If you do plan on living in densely populated areas like Sliema or St. Julians, it will be quite difficult to find off leash areas within walking distance.

      If you have any other questions please a hesitate to get in touch! Another great resource to ask other expats about off-leash areas are the forums on http://www.expat-blog.com.

      I hope the lack of official off-leash areas doesn't scare you off the island, because otherwise it's a pretty great place to live.

      Best,

      Jess

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  8. Hello

    I am considering moving to Malta with my Boyfriend since we fell in love with it last year.We are both divers and are looking to hopefully ( !!) secure jobs out here next year but the sticking point for me would be my dog -chance, its not negotiable that I would leave her behind so this Blog is really interesting and helpful about how to start our journey. I am deciding on whether to fly her over ,or for us to drive over so that we have car here ( we are from the UK)but I have heard that you have to pay for a reg plate as they dont let you drive without a maltese one - is that correct? I was a little worried as she is not very social (previous history with other owner)and was worried about dogs off leads but it seems from your blog that the law is pretty good there and most dogs are kept on leads. It was news to me that they are not allowed on beaches in season so that is useful to know.
    Your blog is very helpful so thanks for keeping it going!

    Kind Regards

    Nykkie

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    1. Hi Nykkie,

      Thanks for your comment! You can find a bunch of information about importing your car to Malta here: http://www.maltainsideout.com/7153/essential-malta-importing-a-car/

      We purchased our car through an importer who arrange all of the fees and paperwork for us, so I'm not sure about the exact details about registration or plates.

      Yes, most dogs in Malta are kept on leads, although this does vary on what location you are in. In some more rural areas stray dogs roam freely, so it may be best to avoid those areas.

      If you have any other questions so let us know!

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    2. Does anyone know if a puppy being exported from rabies-free Ireland to Malta will need to have a rabies vaccination?

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    3. Hi Sarah,

      I would definitely recommend contacting the FFRC Department to verify: http://vafd.gov.mt/further-information

      Best,

      Jess

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  9. Hey,

    I just discovered your blog and found it very interesting. Thanks for all the info int his post, I'm a local, but some of the stuff I didn't know myself. Maybe becuase my dog is only 3 months old and before that I didn't really take note of certain stuff.

    Just a note that AirMalta is now allowing small dogs to be carried in the cabin. I know this becuase we're thinking of going for a short holiday and we are considering our options. You also mentioned the boarding kennels, how did your dogs find them to be? I'm afraid of leaving my shih tzu there as he is really atached to us and am afraid that he will be left alone all day.

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  10. Hi Mandy,

    Thanks for your comment! That's fantastic that Air Malta is now allowing pets in the cabin, I'll update this post accordingly.

    At first, our dogs hated the kennel. But after a few trips, they love it. Of course, I'm sure it helps that they keep each other company. But they get really excited when we drop them off, the love the kennel operators (and that's saying something - they don't love many people in this world!) I'm sure they would rather be home with us, but they survive. There are a lot of other dogs and cats at the kennel, and the owners' children also play with the animals, so they'll never be truly 'alone'.

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  11. Just wondering how are you finding walking your dogs with the beach and gardens ban. I'm moving over in the summer with my Lab and knowing his love of water wondered if you could recommend some decent places for a swim for him also are dogs still allowed in Buskett Gardens I thought they were banned from public gardens? Hope that makes sense. Thanks.x

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    1. Hi Rosie,

      We really haven't found much of a difference since the sand beach ban came into place last year. It is really only inforced during the summer and its often too far and hot to take the dogs to a sandy beach during the summer anyways. We just take them to a few rocky areas close to our apartment in sliema for a swim in the summer. Unfortunately due to the heat in the summer you'll probably be restricted to early morning and late evening dog activities like us as its too hot during the middle of the day to take the dogs out other than to pee.

      If you're in the Sliema area, there's a walking path around tigne point and we use a set of stairs in the middle of it to access the sea, both for us and the dogs. Otherwise, dogs are allowed in any sea area that isnt roped off as a swimmers zone in the summer, so its pretty easy to find a place wherever you end up.

      As for the gardens, Sliema lifted that ban as soon as it was issued so it really hasn't impacted us. Buskett is still full of dogs (and cats) and the only public garden that I know of that doesn't allow dogs is San Anton garden in Attard.

      I hope this helps you out.

      -Mike

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  12. Can you give any advice/guides to good real estate agents with regard to the pets? We are most likely moving in 2 months time and we can't stand the thought of leaving our precious cats behind as they are pretty much our children.

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    1. So glad to hear you're taking your pets with you! We've worked with Dhalia, Remax Malta, and Simon Mamo and (while all did give us some resistance) all three agencies were able to show us saw pet-friendly flats. Our best advice is to persevere. If you meet resistance from landlords, offer to pay a pet damage deposit, provide past references, etc. If you meet resistance from agents, remember if their job to find a suitable flat for you, and if you aren't enjoying the process, simply move on.

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  13. Hi there!

    I was searching some information of Malta and found your blog.
    Thank you for nice posts that give me so much information of living in Malta.
    Me and my boyfriend got a summer job in Malta and we are taking our dog with us. (he's a dachshund by the way :)) Now we are looking for a flat for the summer and don't know how to find a short term let with the dog. Could you give some advice? We would appreciate that a lot. You can send me an email: henna.ulriikka(at)gmail.com

    Regards,
    Henna

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    1. How exciting for you! I'll send you an email this weekend :)

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  14. Dear Mike and Jess,
    I have enjoyed reading your very informative blog. We are here in Malta on our boat coming from Turkey to Nice where we live. Can you tell me if small dogs are allowed on the buses here in Malta? Thanks in advance for any info you can give me.
    Best regards,
    Suzanne

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    1. Hi Suzanne,

      I'm not sure if its officially allowed, but we do take our dogs on the buses occasionally, just be sure to hold the dog in your arms or use a crate. I hope this helps! Enjoy your stay in Malta.

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  15. Thanks. Great information on bringing the dog to Malta. We sent a rescued dog from Malta to Madrid. Pet passport, vaccinations with rabbies injection 30 days before flight. Too big to go on the flight. Both Ryanair and Air Malta said that if it was small enough to go in a cage that fit under the seat, then it could go on board. But too big. Sent with Lufthansa. Great service.

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  16. Hello! I am a girl from the Canary Islands and am looking for an apartment in Malta to go with my dog ​​for a year, where if you can find an apartment that allow the entry of my dog ​​would appreciate to inform me know.
    If you want you can send me a email, my email adress is: Dunamar9@gmail.com Regards!!

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    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Unfortunately, there isn't a specific real estate agency that will perform better than others in finding pet friendly accommodation (although there's certainly a market demand for that!) so I can't be much help.

      My best advice is to inform any real estate agent about the size of your dog, it's training (is it fully house broken? it is friendly?) and that you are willing to provide references for your dog's good behavior. I know it sounds strange, but it's also helpful to avoid mentioning it to the landlord until you meet him/her in person. It's easier to have that conversation about renting to a responsible dog owner face-to-face: The landlord can actually get to know you before they make a decision.

      I hope this helps! Best of luck with your move :)

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