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EXPLAINED: How to adopt a rescue dog in Sweden

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed a lot of people in Sweden to bring a longed-for dog into their homes. But for both ethical and financial reasons, adopting your new best friend may be the way to go.

EXPLAINED: How to adopt a rescue dog in Sweden
Sasha, who was adopted from Ireland through Hundar Utan Hem. Photo: private

You can tell a lot about people by how they treat a dog, and Swedes tend to treat their canine friends as equal members of their family or household. Here dogs are beloved and have been an integral part of everyday life since the Viking era.

During the first year of the pandemic, both sales and adoptions of dogs hit record levels in Sweden, and they remain high even today. The Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) says the increase is largely due to people working from home during the pandemic and as a result feeling the need for companionship and also having enough time to care for an animal.

If you’re thinking of bringing a fur baby into your home and want to avoid dodgy backyard “breeders”, supporting puppy mills or people smuggling dogs in horrible conditions across European borders, you should consider adopting a rescue dog over buying a newborn puppy from a breeder. You are often literally saving their life.

Why are dogs abandoned?

Dogs wind up in rescue shelters for a variety of reasons: some are freed from criminal dog-fighting rings, some are abandoned by “owners” relocating, losing interest, or lacking the income to care for them. Often if these dogs are unable to find a home, there is a strong possibility that they will be put down.

Mandatory first steps

It’s important to note, first off, that the adoption process can be lengthy, and that reputable organisations have comprehensive forms for you to fill out.

You will also probably be interviewed to determine your suitability for the dog. They adoption organisations will want to assess your home size and environment; whether you rent or own (and if pets are allowed); what your lifestyle and daily routines are like; whether you have kids and other pets; and if you have had previous experience with dogs.

Following approval, you will be required to register your dog at Jordbruksverket. All dogs in Sweden must be marked with a unique ID number and registered, using BankID and your Swedish personal number, in the Swedish Board of Agriculture’s central dog register. Next, the dog will be required to be chipped or tattooed for identification, and, if he or she is coming from abroad, have proof of rabies vaccination and a passport.

There are a lot of extensive, constantly updated, animal welfare laws to keep track of and brush up on, such as those covered previously in The Local here and here.

Pros of adoption

For starters, regardless of their past experiences, most dogs are kind and want nothing more than to be a member of a loving pack. Adopted dogs frequently become faithful companions who never leave your side.

In many cases, adult dogs will have previously been housetrained, and are tested by adoption agencies for compatibility with other animals and children, as well as having received basic training.

Adopting a dog is also frequently less expensive than purchasing one from a breeder or through Blocket, the Swedish online second-hand market.

Veterinary fees and travel to Sweden are covered by adoption organisations. They not only ensure that as many people as possible can afford to adopt a dog, but the funds go towards continuing to save more animals.

Dogs brought from abroad through trustworthy organisations arrive in Sweden with all the necessary immunizations and veterinary checks completed.

Additionally, the dog receives a passport and an identification chip, and the agencies will often offer assistance and guidance after the dog arrives.

Some caveats

As a potential adopter, you should be informed of certain risks and weigh them up carefully before deciding if adoption is suitable for you.

Veterinary bills for dogs can quickly mount up. The amount a dog insurance policy covers varies depending on the dog’s age, breed, and health background. As a result, you should check with insurance firms to see what terms they have. 

Everything the dog has gone through in the past will play a role in her conduct. Fear, separation anxiety, and aggression are common behavioural issues in dogs raised in hostile, traumatic environments.

It is critical that everyone who adopts a dog understands this and is certain that they have the time and patience to help the dog process these issues and re-establish positive human associations.

Feel free to seek assistance from the organisation from which you adopted. They will often be able to refer you to a reputable professional dog trainer. 

Before your new best friend arrives

Decide where the dog will spend most of his or her time. The dog may be stressed after relocating from the shelter to your home, so he or she may forget to poo or pee outside. This means it might be best to keep the dog in an area where accidents can be easily cleaned up. Giving the dog their own bed is also a good idea so he or she has a refuge during the first few stressful days and nights.

You should also dog-proof your home. You should, for example, hide cords that hang or lie where the dog can reach them, ensure that the dog does not have access to anything dangerous it might ingest (cleaning products, etc.), remove carpets that cannot be washed, and place plants and fragile items out of harm’s way.

The first days

Ideally, you’ll want to be off work for a week or two. Plan the arrival at the start of a long weekend, and take advantage of holidays.  Dumping her at a doggy daycare (hunddagis) too early will trigger anxiety and confusion. Pick up your new dog in a car if possible. Going via public transportation with a stressed dog is a disaster waiting to happen.

Ask what food the dog is used to when you pick it up. Adopted dogs typically have nervous stomachs as a result of the stress, so it’s good to give them the same food they were eating before. If you can’t find out what the dog was eating, it’s a good idea to choose dog food that is gentle on the stomach. 

Before you start exposing your adopted dog to others, make sure you give him or her time to adjust to her new home and family. If your family includes youngsters, teach them how to approach the dog without overwhelming it. A stressed dog may behave in unpredictable ways.

When you get home, take the dog outside immediately and give her plenty of time to fulfill her needs before returning indoors. Regarding walks, it’s important to stick to the same route every day for a few weeks, as he or she’ll have enough to process as is.

As soon as possible, you should begin obedience training. It’s critical to be consistent in your dog’s training to make the process go more smoothly. Make certain that everyone in the household understands how to train the dog and what terms to use. Prepare for a lot of time and patience during the training!

The Ultimate Bond

Adopting a dog is a major commitment that lasts a lifetime. Relocated dogs frequently have had a terrible life in the past and hence struggle with the transition to your home. It’s important that you understand what this entails and that you be prepared to put in a lot of effort, time, and patience. Adopting a dog, on the other hand, is extremely fulfilling, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you are helping one to have a better life is unrivalled.

Trusted adoption organisations 

Hundar Utan Hem (“Dogs Without Homes”)

Hundar Utan Hem saves and relocates dogs in danger in Sweden and Ireland. Every year, they move about 1,000 pets. The majority of the dogs come from Ireland, where tens of thousands of canines are killed every year. In Sweden, the necessity to relocate dogs is also increasing, and there are numerous reasons for this such as strained family ties or the death of an owner. Every year, Hundar Utan Hem assists over 150 Swedish pets in finding new homes.

Hundar Utan Hem is a politically and religiously neutral organisation, relying on donations to aid all dogs. Monthly contributors, members, and sponsors enable them to preserve and assist needy pets.

Hundstallet (“The dog stable”)

The Swedish Dog Protection Association, a non-profit organisation, runs “the stable”. Created in 1908, they have cared for tens of thousands of pets and helped them find homes throughout their more than 100-year history.  The organisation receives no municipal or governmental funding and is entirely reliant on public and private donations. All year, Hundstallet accepts dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring that vulnerable dogs who end up at Hundstallet for any reason get the best possible care based on their circumstances and find a new loving home.

SOS Animals Sweden

The mission of SOS Animals Sweden is to constantly work for the best interests of both the canines and the adopters. They strive to provide the best possible conditions for you and your new family member by carefully executing placements.

By Matthew Weaver 

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For members


EXPLAINED: What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Sweden?

It’s a situation nobody ever wants to be in, but what happens if you’re arrested in Sweden? What should you do, and what are your rights?

EXPLAINED: What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Sweden?

Most of the people who come to Sweden to work, join a Swedish partner, or start a new life are law-abiding folk. Hardly anyone comes with the intention of breaking the law.  But from time to time, due to an accident of fortune or poor decision-making, foreigners end up on the wrong end of the law. 

Pray it never happens but if you are arrested in Sweden, what are your rights? What happens next, and who can help you? 

Whether it’s a traffic accident, misunderstanding, or murder charge, Swedish law follows certain processes upon arrest. 

The first stages 

The first stage of a police investigation is the anmälan, or report. Anyone can report you for committing a crime, regardless of whether they are the victim. The tax agency, for instance, can report you for fraud. If the police catch you doing something illegal, the officer can file a report themselves. 

After the report is registered, someone is appointed to lead the preliminary investigation — a so-called förundersökningsledare or “investigation leader”. The förundersökningsledare can be either a police officer or a prosecutor, depending on how serious the crime is. 

The förundersökningsledare then decides if there is sufficient reason to suspect that you have committed a crime.

There are two grades of suspicion. The lowest level is skäligen misstänkt or “reasonable suspicion”, which means that there are “circumstances which with a certain strength indicate that you have committed the act.  The next level up is på sannolika skäl, or “on probable cause”, that you have committed the act. 

When can you get arrested? 

If the förundersökningsledare has declared you a suspect, a police officer might be sent to arrest you. A police officer can also arrest you on their own initiative if they think that there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. 

All it takes to arrest someone in Sweden is for the officer to say “du är gripen“, meaning “you are under arrest”. If you resist,  the officer is permitted to employ as much violence as necessary to get you to the police station. 

If a member of the public observes you committing a crime serious enough to warrant a prison sentence, they are also allowed to arrest you, either while you are committing the crime or fleeing the scene. A member of the public is also allowed to arrest anyone wanted by the police for a crime. 

Not everyone suspected of committing a crime is necessarily arrested. If there is no danger to the public, no risk of you tampering with evidence, and no risk that you might flee, then police can decide to leave you free until you are asked to appear for interview or in court. 

When you are arrested, police will search you for any weapons, drugs or suspicious goods, and may take your telephone if it could contain evidence of a crime, but they will otherwise leave you with your belongings. 

What happens after your arrest? 

If you have been arrested by a police officer who had a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, you need to have a formal interview or förhör at the police station as soon as possible. Police may also interview the person who reported you, your alleged victim (the målsägande, which literally means “case owner”), and any witnesses. 

You can only be held at the police station for a maximum of 12 hours before a prosecutor decides whether there is sufficient reason for you to be anhållan, or “held”.  If they decide there is not, then you need to be released. 

If you are held, then you are taken to a cell, where you can be held for a maximum of three days, before which the prosecutor needs to either release you or request that you be häktad, or placed in pre-trial custody. 

When the decision is made to “hold” you, your personal belongings — phone, wallet, keys, etc — are taken from you and stored.

To be placed in pre-trial custody, you have to have committed a crime that can potentially lead to at least one year in prison. The prosecutor must also demonstrate that there is a risk you will tamper with the evidence or flee.

The decision to hold someone in pre-trial custody needs to be made by a judge at a so-called häktningsförhandling, or “detention hearing”. Unlike a full trial, this hearing is decided by a single judge. 

When can you get a defence lawyer? 

You can ask for a defence lawyer as soon as you are arrested. You can request one by name, or request a specific law firm, or, if you don’t know of any specific defence lawyers, just ask the court to appoint one for you. The court can normally contact the lawyer within a few hours, meaning you should ideally have a defence lawyer with you in your first police interview. 

When can you contact your embassy or family? 

The Swedish authorities are legally obliged to inform national embassies of the arrest of one of their citizens, and will normally do so themselves automatically, according to the British Embassy’s guideIf they do not do so, you can request that they do. 

You can ask the police at any time if you want to make a telephone call, but unlike in the UK or US, you have no right to make a phone call. It is up to the discretion of the prosecutor whether to allow you one, and very often they deny it. 

Most embassies have an urgent number people who are arrested can call. The UK’s line is +46 (0) 8 671 30 00 / +44 1908 51 6666, France’s is 0851992349, Germany’s is +46708529420. 

In practice, it is much better to ask your defence lawyer to contact your embassy, or to request that you can make a phone call. 

Friends and relatives of people who have been arrested can also contact their embassy for them, so that the embassy can find out where they are being held and any details of the suspicions against them. 

What can your embassy do? 

Most European embassies will work with defence lawyers to ensure that their citizens are treated well. 

“The Embassy provides impartial, non-judgemental assistance to British citizens who have been arrested or are in jail in Sweden,” a UK embassy spokesperson told The Local. We aim to make sure they are treated properly in line with Swedish regulations, and no less favourably than other prisoners.”

The first stage of this is a consular visit, which most European embassies generally aim to make within about 24 hours of being notified of your arrest. 

If you request it, your embassy will normally be able to inform your next-of-kin in your home country of your arrest. 

Unless you request otherwise, most embassies will also keep the fact that you have been detained and what the charges are confidential. 

How long can I be held before my trial? 

Perhaps the most criticised aspect of the Swedish justice system is the length that suspects can be held in pretrial detention, while the police and prosecutor carry out their investigations. The system has been criticised by the  United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Council of Europe.

The only limit is that Sweden’s Supreme Court has held that the detention must be reasonably proportional in relation to what may be gained from it (NJA 2015 s. 261) and the injury to the defendant.

In theory, there is no limit to the length of time a suspect can be held in pre-trial detention, so long as the custody is extended by a judge every 14 days. So far the record is a little over four years or being held without trial, and suspects are frequently held for over a year before a court rules on their case. 

There is no bail system in Sweden. 

What restrictions can I be under while in pre-trial detention? 

Prosecutors in Sweden often impose restrictions on those in pre-trial detention on the grounds that otherwise the defendant might change their story or tamper with the evidence. Critics often accuse police of imposing excessive restrictions to break suspects, pushing them to give details of the crime to reduce the time until their trial. 

Restrictions might include stopping suspects from being able to: 

  • receive or send letters without them first being inspected by the prosecutor
  • receive visits without special permission from the prosecutor
  • receive or make phone calls without special permission from the prosecutor
  • watch TV, listen to the radio and read newspapers
  • interact with other inmates

You always have the right to contact your lawyer, a member of consular staff (in special circumstances you may be allowed contact with family). You can also see a priest or other representative of a religious order.  

When will I go to trial? 

When the prosecutor has amassed enough evidence that they feel that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, they will issue an åtal, or prosecution document, after which the court will set a date for the trial. 

Prosecutors will only do this if they judge that there is tillräckliga skäl för att väcka åtal, “sufficient cause for laying charges”. If they do not, the will end the investigation without laying charges, at which point you must be released.