Pets are usually considered a member of the family and nobody wants to leave them behind when moving to a new country. However, it is important to be aware of the requirements in order to bring your pet to the Netherlands and what to expect once they are here.
Bringing your pet to the Netherlands
If you intend to bring your pet from your home country to the Netherlands, it is important to follow the required procedures in order to ensure your four-legged friend is healthy enough to travel. If you are traveling from a country that is member of the European Union, your pet needs to hold a “Pet Passport” (dierenpaspoort). The pet passport is both a certificate of health and proof of immunisation against rabies and other diseases that is required by the Dutch customs authority to enter the country. This passport can be obtained from your local veterinarian - the national authorities in every EU country are responsible for issuing the passport to the vets.
In case you are coming from outside Europe, a veterinarian can provide you with a health certificate after a proper examination. Allow at least 6-9 months to arrange for your pet's paperwork.
Besides that, your pet (dogs, cats and ferrets) must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days prior to the departure date and no longer than one year. Some animals are also required to take a blood test to confirm the vaccination. The regulation varies according to the status of the country regarding rabies: if the country has a favorable situation for animal health or if rabies is endemic. On the goverment website, Bringing pets into The Netherlands you can find a list of countries where rabies is controlled, and you can download the health certificate that will be filled out by the vet, amongst other useful information.
It is important to bear in mind that bringing protected species of flora and fauna into the Netherlands is nearly always prohibited, as well as endangered species. Import and export policies become increasingly thorny when dealing with exotic pets or animals, such as wild birds protected by international trade laws. In case you have an exotic pet, it is important you contact the Dutch Customs Information on 0800 0143 (free phone from inside NL) or +31 45 574 30 31 (if you are calling from outside the Netherlands) before making arrangements to bring an exotic animal, bird or plant into the country.
Also, it is strongly advised to be informed by the Dutch Embassy in your departing country and the airlines on the latest regulations before making arrangements to bring your pet to the Netherlands.
You can check on the website of the European Council, Animal Health and Welfare if you need a specific licence, CITES license, which is required for protected species.
If you are bringing your pet to the Netherlands by plane, it is important to choose a pet-friendly airline. Plane trips can be stressfull to the animal and companies such as Continental, Northwest, and KLM have cargo programmes designed to care for four-legged travellers. It means that during any connecting flights, your pet will be checked on, fed, and given water. They will also provide you with all the necessary information to transport your pet, such as requirements, restrictions and tips on how to prepare your pet for the trip.
All the pets (huisdieren) in the Netherlands must have properly identification, it is therefore required to have an electronic microchip implanted in your pet(s). Each microchip has an issued number that gives access to all details stored in a European database so that it is easier for authorities to identify pets and their owners (readable tattoos are no longer accepted since July 2011).
General pet care guidelines in the Netherlands
Whether you bring your pet to the Netherlands or decide to acquire a new four-legged friend here, some general information might be useful to pet owners. You will easily notice that many Dutch families have pets, specially cats and dogs, and they are always very very-treated and loved, and you will be expected to do the same for your own pet.
Firstly, animal food and treaties can be bought at every supermarket and also at specialised animal stores and most garden centres where you can also find beds, toys, games, baskets and other accessories.
If you intend to keep one or more dogs, be aware that most cities in the Netherlands charge an annual dog tax (hondenbelasting), and the price is determined by the number of dogs in the household. Dogs must also be registered with the local town hall (gemeente) and the Dutch Tax Administration (Belastingdienst) upon arrival, which you can arrange by letter or in person. No other animals, such as cats, require registration of tax.
Walking your dog
Dog-walking service (hondenuitlaatservice) is very popular in the Netherlands. Dogs are often taken to walk in parks where they can run and play without a leash. These parks are clearly marked and are fenced in, but be sure your dog is well trained to come back to you when called and will not attack people and other dogs. Dogs are also allowed on the beach except during the summer months and some beaches may allow animals on a leash early in the morning or in the late evening. The specific dates that dogs are allowed on the beach and other rules are usually on a sign in the entrances.
Regardless where you take your dog, you must always clean up after it. You can use a paper bag, a plastic bag or a special ‘pooper scooper’ available at pet shops, veterinarians and municipal offices. There are fines for those who do not do so.
Finding a veterinarian is also an essential part of being a pet owner and there are many good veterinarians and animal hospitals in the Netherlands. You can ask neighbors or friends for a recommendation, or look up ‘dierenarts’(veterinarian)/ 'dierenartspraktijk' (veterinarian practice) in the Yellow Pages, Google or local phone book. Or you can contact ACCESS Helpdesk for a vet in your area.
In case of an emergency, you can call the Animal Ambulance (Dierenambulance) in your area:
Amsterdam 020 626 2121
The Hague 070 328 2828 / 070 366 0909
Hilversum 035 683 0300
Leiden 071 517 4141
Masstricht/Zuid-West Limburg 0900 443 3224
Rotterdam DAR Dierenambulance 010 415 5666/Dierenambulance Reo 010-476-8750
Utrecht 030 273 1600 (or 06 5477 2700)
Wassenaar 070 511 7772
The animal ambulance can also be contacted in case of a lost pet.
Going on vacation is always a challenge if you don’t have a neighbor or friend to look after your pet, but in the Netherlands you can always leave them in a boarding kennel (dierenhotel or dierenpension). You can ask your veterinarian or a friend to recommend you one, or you can contact the ACCESS Helpdesk for a list of kennels in your area. If you plan on leaving your dog/cat at a kennel while you're away on vacation, you will need to ensure your pet passport and vaccinations are up to date. Check with your vet and the kennel for any other requirements.
Good-to-know Dutch terms
Dierenarts – veternarian
Dierenartspraktijk - veternarian practice
Dierenasiel or dierenopvangcentrum – pound
Dierenpaspoort – animal passport
Geen aanlijnplicht – no leash required
Geen hondenuitlaaten – It is not allowed to let your dog out here
Hondenbelasting – dog tax
Hondenlosloopterreinen and uitlaatgebied – an area where dogs can be without a leash
Hondenuitlaatservice – dog walking service
Opriumverplicht – Required to pick up after your dog.
Verboden voor Honden – dogs are not allowed
Resources related to Having a pet in the Netherlands
Animal Passport: www.dierenpaspoort.nl
European Commission website: ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/index_en.htm
Spoedkliniek (night and weekend emergency clinic). Tel: 020 694 4766 (in Dutch only)