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Cats, Dogs, Ferrets — Keeping a Pet in the Emirates

Are you thinking about starting a new life in Dubai or Abu Dhabi with your dog, cat, or ferret? Good idea, but don’t underestimate the import requirements you are about to face. Once there, you might have a few more challenges to face to offer your furball a happy home in the UAE!
If you can’t live without your pets, taking them with you can be well worth the effort.
  • Every pet imported into the UAE must be microchipped.
  • Pets must get vaccinated against rabies between 12 months and 21 days before the move.
  • There are only few dog-walking places in the UAE and some residential areas ban pets altogether.
  • Despite high fines, exotic animals are often kept as pets by wealthy Emiratis.


Many expats who move to the UAE cannot imagine leaving their pets behind. Despite the many bureaucratic hurdles that make taking your dog or cat along anything but easy, more and more foreigners would never make the move to the country at the Gulf without their furry friend. That being said, conditions are not always ideal for pets in the UAE (especially for dogs).

If you still can’t live without your pet, you should make sure to adhere to all the legal requirements for taking your pet to the UAE.

Taking Your Furry Friend Along

The regulations for shipping your pets (especially your cats and dogs) are rather strict, but you’d do well to follow them. Otherwise you can run into a lot of problems upon arrival. In fact, incomplete documentation can result in a 5,000 AED fine and the re-export of your beloved pet to your country of origin at your own expense.

The information below only applies to dogs and cats in the first place. If you’re the proud owner of a ferret, rabbit, or guinea pig, for instance, you should get in touch with the Ministry of Environment & Water to find out which regulations apply.

Import Papers and Vaccination Cards — All the Documents You Need

Before you can board a plane with your puppy or kitten, you need to make sure that all of the paperwork is in order. Otherwise you could run into serious trouble throughout your move. These are the documents you need for your cat or dog:

  • an import paper from the Ministry of Environment & Water in the UAE which isvalid for 30 days and applies to not more than two pets;
  • a veterinary certificate for the United Arab Emirates which must be stamped by the governing authority in your country responsible for the import and export of animals;
  • a vaccination card or certificate for each pet, clearly displaying the current rabies vaccination and other required immunizations;
  • a copy of the blood titer test results, if requested from your country (more on that below);
  • proof that your pet has undergone an internal and external parasite treatment,  within 10 days of arrival.

Moreover, your pet is required to have an ISO standard chip. Keep in mind that some types of animals require their own import permits. This includes birds, tropical fish, reptiles, amphibia, and mammals such as rodents and rabbits. They usually don’t need a rabies vaccination but might be subject to other requirements.

The same applies to animals which are protected under CITIES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). So if you own a parrot or a turtle you want to bring along, you will have to apply for additional permits.

Rabies Free or Not? Necessary Immunizations

There are various blood tests and vaccinations that your cat or dog has to undergo before they are allowed to enter the UAE. Rabies is a big one, of course. The vaccination card has to show not only the date of your pet’s current rabies vaccination, but also the manufacturer of the vaccine, the batch number, and the expiration date. The vaccination has to take place between 12 months and 21 days before your arrival in the Emirates.

In addition, you have to have your dog vaccinated against distemper, leptospirosis, canine hepatitis, and parvovirus. Your cat needs to get vaccinated against panleukopnia, calicivirus, and feline rhinotracheitis.

If you come from a country that is not considered rabies free, you need to have a blood titer test taken. This test has to take place at least 21 days after the last rabies vaccination and less than 90 days before you take your pet to the UAE.

Location is Everything — Approved Entry Points

Your pets have to enter the UAE as manifested cargo through approved entry points. Make sure to get in touch with your airline early on to talk to them about their cargo crates and pet policies. Approved entry points in the UAE include:

  • Abu Dhabi Airport
  • El Bateen
  • Ras Al-Kaimah Airport
  • Dubai Airport
  • Al Ain Airport
  • Sharjah International Airport
  • Fujairah International Airport
  • Ajman International Airport

No Way In — Prohibited Breeds

When you get in touch with an airline about taking your dog abroad, make sure to inquire about restrictions on specific breeds. In fact, breeds with flat faces and those thought to be aggressive are often declined.

Moreover, the UAE itself has a list of dog breeds which are banned from entering the country altogether. This includes all kinds of pit bulls, Argentinian and Brazilian mastiffs, wolf dog hybrids, American Staffordshire terriers, and cross breeds thereof.

Daily Life with the Furball — Getting and Keeping a Pet in the UAE

As mentioned before, keeping a pet, especially one which needs to get some fresh air every now and then, can be a bit of a challenge in the UAE. Many residential areas have banned pets altogether or don’t allow anything furry or bigger than a goldfish. In Dubai, for instance, you need to get a written permission from your landlord before moving into an apartment with your pet.

However, even if your landlord is very “pet-friendly”, you should keep in mind that there are not many areas in the UAE where dog owners can take their furry friend for a walk. Dogs are banned from most beaches and parks, and only few gated communities have proper walking paths.

At least, the newly opened Dubai Birds and Pet Market has included a dog-walking area in their expansion plans, reacting to the needs of many pet owners.

However, even designated outdoor areas will not make life easier for you and your dog during the unforgiving summer heat. When it gets too hot to spend much time outside, many people flee the country for a few weeks at a time. As some pet owners do not want to go through the hassle of taking their pet with them, they leave them behind — at local animal shelters, if the pets are lucky, or on the streets if they’re not.

In recent years, shelters have become increasingly crowded during peak travel periods. Many of them cannot take another animal in before some of their dogs and cats have been adopted. Thus, if you think about getting a new pet while living in the UAE, why not adopt one from a local shelter like K9 Friends, Animal Action UAE, Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, or the Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Center?

Exotic Animals as Status Symbols in the UAE

Traditionally, Emiratis like to keep animals for sports: falconry and camel races are just as popular as exploring the desert on horseback. (You can find out more in our article on sports in the UAE.)

However, wild or exotic animals are also considered a status symbol in countries around the Gulf, and it is not uncommon for live animals, including endangered species, to be sold in online classifieds. Although the import of a lot of endangered species has been banned and keeping wild animals as pets is technically prohibited, the UAE struggles to enforce these bans.

The smuggling of lion cubs, for instance, remains rather common on the Arabian Peninsula. Often, the animals are imported from East Africa when they are still very young. Owners keep them in their home and expect them to grow up tame, but this is usually not the case. Don’t even think about following this horrible trend, as the punishment for keeping an exotic animal as a pet can be a six-month prison sentence and a 50,000 AED fine


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