In Germany, pets are treated almost like humans. It is very common to have pets in a household. If you plan to move with your pets to Germany or adopt a new pet here locally, make sure you understand all the legal requirements. Pet laws in Germany are very strict. In this article, you will find a brief overview of what you need to consider when having pets in Germany.
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Pets in Germany
In my hometown Hong Kong, there is almost no law governing pet ownership. It is illegal to torture or mistreat an animal. But one can have as many pets as they want. A pet can be abandoned easily (sadly). It is common to see wild dogs and cats on the street.
This is not the case in Germany. Your pet may need a passport, a registration, and even an insurance policy! There is also something called “dog tax”! Sounds completely crazy to me. But we are in Germany. So, any bureaucratic obligations can happen.
According to Statista, cats are the most popular pets in Germany in 2019, followed by dogs. In fact, many of my friends in Germany have either cats or dogs (or both).
Before having your pets in Germany
I understand the excitement of getting a pet. But before you start, let’s first talk about some general requirements that come with having a pet in Germany.
Check with your landlord
If you plan to get a pet in Germany, make sure you check with your landlord beforehand. This is important especially if you want to get a dog or cat. Your landlord most likely won’t have a problem with small animals like fish or hamsters.
Read also: Buying a House in Germany – As a Foreigner
You need a passport for your pets in Germany
Yes, it is not a joke. If you have a dog, a cat, or a ferret, it will need a passport in Germany, just like any other humans! In fact, this rule is valid for pet owners in the European Union. So, you have to carry your pet’s passport with you if you are traveling with your pet to another EU country.
The pet passport needs to be issued by an authorized vet. It includes information like the name and address of the pet owner, description of the pet, microchip information, vaccination details, and the signature of the vet. The passport is valid for life and it has the same format in all the EU countries.
A microchip in your pet may be required
If you have a dog in Germany, it must have a microchip implanted. A microchip can be implanted by a vet. It stores information about the pet owners so that the dog can be easily identified in case it gets lost. It can also ensure that the dog cannot be abandoned easily.
Cats are not legally required to have a microchip unless you want to travel with them to another EU country. Our cats have microchips though. It is easier for us to find them again if they are lost.
Having your pets in Germany – What cost should you consider?
It depends on what kind of pet you have. In general, it is more costly to have a dog than a cat in Germany. It is because there are more legal rules for dog owners in Germany, e.g. dog tax, dog liability insurance, etc.
Besides the above specific dog expenses, the vet costs and supplies make up most of the costs for having a pet in Germany.
Supplies for your pets in Germany
We have two cats at home. First, we had to buy some cat toilets and carriers. Then, we need to buy cat food, cat sand, and other supplies regularly.
We always go to pet stores like Fressnapf to buy supplies for our cats. Of course, you can also get your supplies online nowadays. You can even find butchers specifically for dogs in Germany (Hundemetzger).
Finding a vet for your pets in Germany
Once you have your pets in Germany, you should register with a local vet (Tierarzt). You will need to take your pets there for different reasons. For example, injuries, illness, poisoning, vaccinations, neutering, etc.
The good thing is that many vets can speak English in Germany. There is basic equipment like ultrasound, x-ray, blood testing machine in a vet’s office. You can search for a local vet on this website.
For major surgery, you will have to take your pets to an animal clinic (Tierklinik). Your pets can get their surgeries there. They can also stay overnight for observation if needed. An animal clinic has the equipment needed to handle emergencies for your pets.
Pet health insurance (Tierkrankenversicherung)
It will happen at some point that your pet is sick or injured. Unfortunately, visiting a vet can be really expensive in Germany. That is why it makes sense to have health insurance for your pets that will cover most bills from your vet.
Many pet health insurance policies cover the cost of castration, prevention treatment, surgeries, and even travel insurance. The cost per pet can range from 12 to 30 Euros per month, depending on the age and type of your pets.
Some insurance companies also offer surgery insurance (Operationskostenversicherung). Surgery insurance only covers heavy surgeries. So, it is much cheaper than the normal pet health insurance (as low as 5 Euros per month). Getting surgery insurance can provide some security for you. You don’t have to worry about the expensive surgery cost.
Below are some popular insurance companies that offer pet health insurance.
- Agila – You can also opt for surgery insurance only
- BavariaDirekt – You can also opt for surgery insurance only
Before signing any contracts, you should read the insurance policies carefully. Make sure you know what costs are covered and what not. For example, the maximum coverage, the deductible amount, and what types of treatments are insured.
Pets in Germany – Dog
If you plan to have a dog in Germany, there are extra requirements that you should be aware of.
In Germany, dogs are treated almost like humans. It means that they also need to go to their local authority (Bürgeramt) to get registered. This is the same place where you register your address.
If you bring your dog to Germany, or if you adopt a new dog here, you should register your dog within two to four weeks. If you move, you will also need to re-register your dog with your new address. The registration serves as a dog license.
Dog tax (Hundesteuer)
Do you know that you have to pay a dog tax if you own a dog in Germany? It was quite surprising to me as I have never heard of such a tax before. But hey, we are in Germany. There are taxes for everything.
After registering your dog, you will have to start paying dog tax. The reason for the dog tax is to discourage people from having too many dogs. Besides, cities need money to build facilities for dogs like dog waste bins. Note that guide dogs are exempt from the tax, e.g. dogs used by people with disabilities.
The amount of dog tax differs from state to state. You can check the tax in your area here. For example, the dog tax is 100 Euros per year for each dog in Munich. And certain dog breeds can cost you 800 Euros per year!
In some states, you may be able to pay a reduced dog tax if you have a dog license (Hundeführerschein). Hundeführerschein means “dog driving license” literally. It is a license to handle a dog properly. It is kind of like driving your car. But now you are walking your dog outside. You need to pass some exams to ensure that you know how to deal with your dog. And your dog does not endanger other people and animals outside.
Read also: Tax Return in Germany – Guide for Expats
Banned dog breeds
It is important to know that some dog breeds are considered dangerous and thus are banned in Germany. You will not be able to bring these dog breeds to Germany:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Bull Terrier
These are considered fighting dogs. Any crossbreeds of the above dog breeds are also banned.
But there are exceptions to these rules. For example, if the dog is staying for less than 4 weeks in Germany. Or if the dog lived in Germany before and is now returning to Germany. Besides, service dogs like security or watchdogs may also be allowed.
For more details, you can check the website of the Customs Office (Zollamt) here.
Note also that different states in Germany can have different rules. You can check which dog breeds are defined as dangerous by the individual states here.
Keep your dog on a lead
If you go to a public area with your dog like in public transport, you will have to keep your dog on a lead. In general, your dog can be on a two-meter lead when it is outside. But if you go to a more crowded place with your dog, it will have to be on a one-meter lead.
Besides, if you have a fighting dog, it may have to be on a lead all the time outside. It may also need to wear a muzzle. It is your responsibility to get yourself familiar with the rules. Remember that the rules can vary from region to region.
Where are dogs allowed?
Do you know that you need to buy a discounted ticket for your dog if you take the metro with your dog? I found it quite interesting when I first saw this on the ticket machine in Germany. With that said, you can bring your dog with you on public transport. And dogs are often welcomed at cafes, restaurants, and shops. But they will need to stay outside of supermarkets and anywhere with the sale of fresh food. You will usually find a sign on the window of the shops if dogs are not allowed.
Keep a plastic bag with you
You should always keep a plastic bag if you go out with your dog. As an owner, you are responsible to clean up your dog’s poop. You may face a high fine without doing so.
Dog liability insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung)
If you live in Germany, it is very important to have liability insurance. Check out here why: Liability Insurance Germany – Expat Guide. If you have a dog, your dog is kind of like your family member and you are responsible for the damages caused by it. For example, if it harms someone else or destroys anything.
That is why it is good to have dog liability insurance. The dog liability insurance covers the vet cost in case your dog hurts another dog. And if your dog injures another person so that he is disabled for life, the dog liability insurance will also cover the lost income.
Without this insurance, you are liable for the damages with all your assets. It can cause you bankruptcy in the worst case, especially if your dog injures another person. In some German states, you are even legally required to have dog liability insurance.
How to choose a good insurance
You should compare different insurance offers to find the one which suits you best. The cost of dog liability insurance in Germany depends on different factors. For example, the coverage, the breed of the dog, the deductible amount, etc. You can usually get a discount as well if you are paying yearly. It costs around 2 to 6 Euros per month for dog liability insurance with a coverage amount of tens of millions. So, it is totally worth it to get one that gives you peace of mind.
If you are not familiar with the German language, we recommend using GetSafe because of its English support.
- Worldwide coverage
- 15 million Euro insured sum
- Daily cancellable
The coverage is worldwide, so it is best if you need to travel frequently with your dog.
If you are okay with the German language, below are some other popular companies that offer dog liability insurance.
Alternatively, you can also use Tarifcheck to compare different insurance policies and find the best one for you.
As mentioned before, there are strict pet laws in Germany, especially for dogs. A new law will be introduced in 2021. It will require dog owners to walk their dogs twice a day for an hour in total. I have no ideas on how they are going to control this. But just think twice before getting a dog. Make sure you have the time and energy to take care of it.
How to adopt pets in Germany?
If you plan to adopt a new pet in Germany, you can try one of the ways below.
Animal shelter (Tierheim)
We got our two cats from an animal shelter (Tierheim). We could choose domestic cats, which only stay at home. Or we could choose cats that go outside. The good thing is that all the animals in the shelter are already vaccinated and dewormed. They also have a microchip and passport. So, you don’t have to worry about meeting all these requirements.
After we picked our kitties, the staff from the shelter asked us some questions. This was to make sure that we were suitable to have cats. Later on, someone from the shelter came to inspect our house to make sure that our house is suitable to host cats.
Yes, it is very serious here in Germany! The guy looked to see if we had enough space for our cats. He also told us to be careful when opening our windows. We lived on the first floor and our cats could fall from there. I found it very nice that animal welfare is such a serious topic in Germany!
After all the paperwork was done, we had to pay an “adoption fee”. It was a donation of 60 Euros per cat at that time. And we could finally take our kitties home.
You can find a local animal shelter by searching on the internet. Just type your city and “Tierheim” to search. Or use this website.
You may sometimes see some ads in the newspaper or online that someone wants to sell or give away their pets. I have seen such offers also on Facebook Groups. There are different reasons that someone cannot take care of their pets anymore.
If you decide to get your pet from private individuals, check if the animal is in good living condition. The seller should also provide the pet passport and all the vaccination records.
I would never accept an animal without the necessary documentation. Besides, do not pay before seeing the animal.
Similarly, you should check to make sure that the animal is in good living condition if you get it from a breeder. You should also get a purchase contract and all the necessary documents. For example, a pet passport from the breeder.
You can find a breeder by searching on the internet with your city and the type of pet you want. If you are looking for a dog, you can also use this website to search.
Pet shop (Zooladen)
You can buy small animals in a pet shop in Germany. For example, fish, birds, mice, etc. There is usually an animal department in a pet shop. But you cannot find bigger animals like dogs and cats there.
Moving with your pets to Germany
If you already have a pet in your home country, it is possible to bring them to Germany. Note that you can only bring up to 5 animals to Germany as family pets. This is controlled by the customs office (Zollamt).
Flying your pets to Germany
Flying is a stressful experience for us humans. Not to mention how much more stressful it is for your pets. It is possible to fly your pet. You just need to plan and prepare well in advance.
First of all, you should check the pet policies of your airlines carefully. The rules can be very different depending on the airline and your country. For example, the rules on animal size, weight, pet containers, number of pets, weather-related restrictions, etc.
You will need a carrier for your pets during the flight. You can usually get a prescribed one from pet stores or from the airlines. Make sure the carrier is big enough so that your pets can move freely. Your carrier should also be well ventilated and has a waterproof bottom. Try to get your pet used to the carrier beforehand. This can help to reduce stress during the flight.
Some airlines may allow your small pets to stay in the passenger cabin if the carrier can fit under the seat. But some others may require your carrier to be put in a pressurized cargo bay. In any case, you should let your airline know in advance if you will travel with your pet.
Depending on your pet and airline, you will usually pay around a few hundred Euros for the flight of your pet.
Read also: Moving to Germany – Complete Expat Guide
Move with your pets to Germany from another EU country
If you plan to bring your dogs, cats, or ferrets to Germany, you need to plan early as a lot of paperwork will be needed. For example, your pets need to be vaccinated against rabies within a certain time. Your pets need to have a microchip implanted, and you will also need to bring along your pets’ passports. Besides, you need to have a written declaration stating that your pets are not for commercial purposes.
For more details on the rules, you can click here.
Move with your pets to Germany from outside the EU
If your pets are coming from outside the EU, there will be extra requirements on top of those mentioned above.
Depending on your country of origin, your pets may need to do a blood test to prove the efficiency of rabies vaccination. Besides, an animal health certificate issued by an authorized vet is required. And you may only be able to enter the country via certain entry points.
There are many rules about the movement of pets within or from outside of the EU. For example, you may not be allowed to bring a pet that is younger than 15 weeks old. You may have to accompany your pet. The list goes on.
I cannot put all the rules here as they are different depending on the type of pet and the pet’s country of origin. For more details, you should check out this website.
Pets other than dogs and cats
If you want to bring other pets to Germany, be sure to check the special requirements beforehand. For example, you can only bring three rabbits privately. And birds usually need to be vaccinated against Avian Flu. Otherwise, they will be subjected to quarantine. For guinea pigs and hamsters, there are no special rules except that they will be included as the total number of pets allowed.
If you plan to bring other exotic animals like snakes or spiders, make sure to check with the German Embassy in your home country beforehand. For certain animals, they may only enter Germany through authorized entry points. And some animals may be classified as endangered species.
Other tips when traveling with your pets
- Carry your pet passport with you during the travel
- If you are driving, you may need a carrier or even a seatbelt for your dog
- Before using public transportation, check if you need an extra ticket for your pet
- Your dog needs to be on a lead when using public transport. For other animals, you need to secure them in carriers.
Other things you should know as a pet owner in Germany
What to do if you are going on vacation?
This is an important question to think about. If you have a dog, consider taking the dog with you on vacation. If it is not possible, you need to find someone to take care of your dog when you are away. We have two cats at home and it is sometimes hard to find someone to help. This is especially the case during Christmas time when everyone is away.
Your friend or neighbor
That is why it is very beneficial to have a good relationship with your neighbor. It is very convenient if your neighbor can help taking care of your pet for a short while. If your neighbor has pets as well (or plants at home), you can offer to help so that you can return the favor.
At the moment, a teenage girl next door always helps us with our cats when we are away. We give her some pocket money in return. It is a win-win situation.
Animal hotel (Tierhotel)
You will have to bring your pets to the hotel and they will stay overnight there. It can be quite stressful for your pets as they will be put in a new environment. Besides, it can also get costly.
Find someone online
There are websites like this one where you can put up an advertisement. Then, you can search for someone to take care of your pets in Germany. This is a relatively cheap option, comparing to an animal hotel. You can also use a local Facebook group to see if anyone nearby can help.
It is good to meet the person beforehand to decide if he or she is suitable for your pets. There is always a risk because you do not really know the person before.
What to do if your pet is missing?
Unfortunately, sometimes your pet may go missing. For example, some outdoor cats from my colleagues were missing before. Sometimes, the cat was trapped somewhere, e.g. in someone’s garage. In the worst case, the cat was run over by a car.
If you cannot find your pet, you can contact your local animal shelters. Someone may find your pet and bring it there. It is also common to hang posters in your local area.
That is why it is important to have a microchip implanted in your pet. Your pet can be identified easier and it increases your chance to find your pet again.
What if you cannot take care of your pets anymore?
In the ideal world, you should never abandon your pets. But sometimes, life happens and you may not have a choice. For example, if you are too sick to take care of your pet.
In that case, you can try to find someone who can be the new owner. For example, your friends, your neighbor, etc. If you cannot find anyone, you should contact your local animal shelter. Bring all the documents about your pets with you.
Remember that it is illegal to abandon or mistreat an animal. You can face a high fine in Germany for that.
What if you find a stray pet outside?
Note that you are not allowed to just keep the pet yourself. You should bring it to the police or to an animal shelter. This way the owner has a chance to find his pet again.
If you find an injured animal, you should report it to the police or take it to the vet (if it is a small animal). The cost will be borne by either the owner or the city.
If you cause injury to an animal (e.g. while driving), it is illegal to just leave. You must take care of the injured animal and call the police.
Alternatives to having a pet
Owning a pet comes with a huge responsibility. Once you decide to adopt a pet in Germany, it is kind of like having a kid. It becomes part of your life and you are responsible for it.
Not sure yet if you are ready for the responsibility? There are other ways to test it out first before adopting a pet in Germany.
Volunteer at your local animal shelter
You can be a volunteer at your local animal shelter and help to take care of the animals there. Some also let you take an animal home temporarily.
Be a dog or cat sitter
There are always people looking for a dog or cat sitter, especially when they go on vacation. You can have a chance to take care of the animals and also earn some money at the same time. You can check out different offers in your local area here.
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Please be aware that this article is to give you a brief overview of relocating your pets and owning a pet in Germany. We will try our best to keep the information in this article up to date. If you see any outdated information, please feel free to let us know and we will update it accordingly. Our blog accepts no liability in any case. If you need any more details or the latest information, please check your airline’s guidelines and the EU rules on pets directly. Make sure that you are compliant with the latest rule. Failing to do so may result in disruptions like putting your pets into quarantine, returning your pets to your home country at your expense, etc.
Do you have pets in Germany? Did you get your pets here in Germany? Or did you fly them from your home country to here? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!