Crossing borders with animals – safely!

Bern, 10.03.2022 - A holiday with your dog, moving countries with your cat or buying a reptile abroad: there are many reasons why you may need to cross a border with animals. However, the number of issues that can arise when you do so has risen in recent years. Good preparation and conscious buying behaviour can prevent animals suffering. Being well informed helps you to avoid fines or prosecution. The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) offers help on crossing borders with pets correctly on its website and warns against illegal animal imports.

To protect pets and inform owners, the FSVO provides assistance on its website on travelling with pets and importing animals, plants and foods. The FSVO also warns against spontaneously purchasing animals abroad. They often come from cruel breeding environments or illegal dog trading. Any journey with or purchase of a pet must be well planned, well prepared and carefully checked.

Animals with insufficient, invalid or forged travel documents are not permitted to enter Switzerland. Illegal imports or entry into the country may result in fines or even prosecution.

Rising animal imports – increasing issues

During the coronavirus pandemic, demand for pets – and thus also the number of animal imports – grew:

  • Dog imports rose by a quarter in both of the last two years from around 28,000 in 2019 to approximately 35,000 in 2021. Import permits for dogs from countries with a high risk of rabies have doubled over the past year from around 1,000 to 2,000.
  • Animal welfare cases at the border have risen almost fourfold, from 654 in 2020 to 2,560 in 2021 as the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) announced today.
  • The FOCBS Competence Center for Pets registered a record number of animals that were not correctly declared when crossing the border and had to be cleared by customs retroactively. Retroactive customs clearances of animals rose to 4,903 in 2021 from just 280 in 2019. This is a 17-fold increase within three years.

The most frequent issue was the failure to import animals as stipulated via a manned border crossing point with immediate declaration to customs. In the majority of these cases, there were also violations of the Epizootic Diseases Act, the Species Protection Ordinance or the Animal Welfare Act. These included the import of puppies that had not reached the required minimum age of 56 days, or dogs with docked tails or ears, which is prohibited in Switzerland.

Consequences for owners

Criminal proceedings were instituted in more than two-thirds of cases of subsequent declaration. Total fines rose more than six-fold from just under CHF 30,000 in 2019 to almost CHF 200,000 last year.

The FSVO Border Veterinary Service had to take action in the cases of more than 300 animals at Zurich at Geneva airports in 2021.

Address for enquiries

Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)
Media Unit Phone: +41 (0)58 463 78 98


Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office