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Iceland is a quirky place. For various reasons, weird laws in Iceland have stayed on the books until fairly recently. A ban on beer was in place until March 1st of 1989. The ban on beer was purely for political reasons and other forms of alcohol were legal for consumption.

But it’s also a place bursting with culture and some of the most incredible landscapes you’ll ever see. Their strange laws have contributed to the overall atmosphere and way of life.

Another strange law Iceland upheld until the 1980s was a ban on dogs. Specifically, dogs in Iceland were banned from the capital for quite some time. Although the ban has been lifted, you’ll see that there are strict requirements that must be met in order to own a dog in Iceland.

dog in Iceland not being banned

Are dogs allowed in Iceland?

Yes, dogs are now allowed in Iceland under certain conditions. From 1924 to 1984, dogs were actually forbidden in the capital city of Reykjavik, due to the need to halt the spread of a certain parasite. In 1984, that ban was lifted although with heavy restrictions being enforced.

It may seem like the people of Reykjavik may not be dog people. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Their ban on dogs was for serious health and social/economic improvements.

This did have other implications though, including that due to the dog ban in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, cats have become the choice of pet in the city. In fact, cats are so popular in the country’s capital that they have shaped the culture in that town. Although other animals did not receive such harsh restrictions as dogs have, there are still restrictions and regulations when it comes to owning any pet in Iceland.

All animal and livestock welfare is controlled by the MAST, which is the acronym in Icelandic for the Iceland Food and Veterinary Authority. All pet owners must adhere to the rules this organization has put in place if they would like to legally have a dog in Iceland.

Why were dogs banned in Iceland?

In 1924, Reykjavik banned citizens from having dogs as pets. The ban was an attempt to help prevent the spread of an outbreak of echinococcosis, which is a type of tapeworm. Up until the ban was put in place, along with other restrictions, many autopsies discovered these parasites lurking in the bodies of the deceased.

Echinococcosis is a tapeworm that can be passed from dogs to humans easily. This parasite can cause blindness permanently and intestinal infections. Echinococcosis can lead to death as well, with the highest mortality rate found in people aged 70-79.

dog in Iceland with snow on its face

Thankfully, echinococcosis has virtually been eradicated from Iceland, due to its heavy restrictions and regulations on dog and pet ownership. However, echinococcosis is still prevalent in many parts of the world, with most cases of this disease being found in various parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia.

It is also said that dogs were banned due to a desire to turn Reykjavik into a bustling and modern city. It was believed that dogs were not meant to live in cities and were best kept in rural areas.

How do I move my dog to Iceland?

In order to move your dog to Iceland, you will need to obtain an import permit, as well as provide proof of the requirements for vaccinations and testing. An import permit is issued by the Iceland Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST).

The laws in Iceland for tourists are the same as the rules and laws that apply to residents of Iceland. This means that if you wish to simply visit with your dog, you will need to obtain the same permits to undergo testing and ensure your pup is up to date on vaccinations just the same.

dog in Iceland with its tourist parent

In addition to testing, vaccinations, and acquiring the proper permits, your dog will need to undergo quarantine when visiting Iceland. This actually applies to all pets. The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority requires pets to be held under quarantine for at least two weeks.

This is done to ensure the health and safety of local animals, as well as the residents.

If you’d like to be a pet owner in Iceland, you may also need to pay a yearly registration fee, which can differ from city to city. Finally, like any other country, there are sometimes dog-related rules in certain areas, like when you visit Geysir in Iceland, you have to keep your dog on a leash for their own safety.

What permits, testing and vaccinations are required?

You can find the MAST dog import application here. If you wish to import a dog for vacation or for permanent residence, it is imperative you apply for this.

The most important vaccination for a dog or cat to get is the rabies vaccine. A serology titer test must be taken 30 days after the vaccination of the animal.

In Iceland, you are required by law to report any animal illness to a licensed vet or police. Animal health and public safety are taken seriously. In order for your pet to enter Iceland, it must meet all the MAST health requirements.

Planning a visit (with your dog!) to Iceland? Check out: Do They Speak English in Iceland?

Are dogs popular in Iceland?

Dogs are more in demand than ever before. According to the Icelandic Kennel Club (HRFI), small dog breeds are more popular than larger ones. Cats may be more popular in the capital; however, dogs are still beloved pets in Iceland.

Dogs have become more popular than ever. In fact, the pandemic seemed to bring about a spike in puppy registrations. At the beginning of 2020, there were only 816 dogs registered.

The number of registered dogs had risen past 1,600 in the same calendar year.

dog playing in the snow

Popular dogs in Iceland

Iceland has a long history of breeding dogs. In fact, the Icelandic sheepdog is one of Iceland’s only native dogs and is one of the most popular breeds in Iceland. The miniature Schnauzer, labrador retriever, and miniature pinscher, are among the top 5 most popular breeds in the country.

In 2021, there were 58 different dog breeds registered in Iceland. Some other popular breeds that deserve an honorable mention are the German Shepard, and the French bulldog.

What dog breeds are banned in Iceland?

Dogs such as the American Pit Bull terrier, Dogo Argentino (Argentine Mastiff), Todalnu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff), and wolf mixes are not allowed in Iceland. These dog breeds are considered dangerous and therefore are forbidden to enter Iceland, even if you follow the application process.

Other dog breeds that are considered to be aggressive but have yet to be banned are the Cane Corso, Presa Canario, and Boerboel breeds.

What countries are forbidden to bring pets to Iceland and why?

In addition to forbidden breeds, there are countries that aren’t allowed to bring dogs into Iceland due to rabies. There are many rabies-free countries. However, in some parts of the world, the disease is still plaguing animals. As a means to control the spread of this disease, only countries that fall into two categories are allowed to bring animals into Iceland.

Category 1 applies to countries that are rabies-free and category 2 applies to countries with very few rabies cases. This does not mean that the dog’s country of origin has to be in one of these countries. An animal will be allowed to enter Iceland with the proper documentation as long as it has been in one of the category 1 or 2 countries for at least 6 months prior to its transport.

Category 1 Countries Include but are not limited to:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • United Arab Emirates

On the other hand, category 2 countries include but are not limited to Canada, Greenland, Poland, Turkey, and the US.

Final thoughts on dogs in Iceland

To reiterate, dogs are not banned in Iceland. Dogs were banned briefly from the capital of Iceland until 1984. The ban has since been lifted and residents, as well as tourists, are allowed to import dogs into Iceland after acquiring the proper documentation, testing, and vaccinations for the animal.

Iceland will require your dog to be placed in quarantine for at least two weeks after entering the country. If you wish to bring your pet with you to Iceland, visit the MAST website for information and resources on all of the requirements you will need to do so.