Why did Berlin dog owners pay over €11 million in ‘dog tax’ last year?

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Jörg Luyken - [email protected]
Why did Berlin dog owners pay over €11 million in ‘dog tax’ last year?
Photo: DPA

Germany is one of the few European countries left which levies a tax on pooches. In Berlin, district coffers were enriched by more than €11 million through the ‘dog tax’ last year.


In the eastern district of Marzahn, the local authority took in €1.1 million in taxes from dog owners in 2016, city statistics published on Thursday show.

Pooch lovers in Reinickendorf and Spandau also paid over a million into district coffers. The intake was lowest in the inner city district of Schöneberg, where the local Finanzamt levied €287,000 in dog tax.

Dog tax is such big business for the capital that it has 24 full time employees whose sole task is to deal with this one duty.

What is the dog tax?

It was first introduced in several German speaking kingdoms in the early 19th century for the purpose of reducing the prevalence of rabies, and in some cases helping to pay off war debts.

Dog taxes were also common in many European countries throughout much of the 20th century, but were abolished in most countries starting in the 1970s. The United Kingdom was one of the last countries to get rid of it, striking it from the law book in 1987.

But Germany has stubbornly held onto this pet payment.

It is levied at the community level and all households which possess a dog for private reasons are obliged to register their animal and pay up.

Because districts can set the level of the tax, it varies widely across the country. A survey by Stiftung Warentest in 2015 found that the dog tax can be as high as €186 per year.

The tax is also normally much higher if one owns more than one dog, as a stated aim of the tax is to keep dog ownership down. Thus in Berlin dog owners pay €140 per year on their first hound and €180 for every subsequent one.

The dog tax can also be much higher for certain breeds of dog - particularly attack dogs. This caveat is particularly controversial and has been challenged in court. For example, a court in Göttingen ruled in 2004 that it was not fair to charge extra tax on a Doberman but not on an Alsatian, even though these have the same potential to inflict injury.
But there are exceptions to the tax, too. Dog lovers who took their pet from an animal shelter don't have to pay the tax in the first year of ownership.
If you own a guide dog because you are blind or deaf, you are exempt from the tax. You also don't have to pay if your dog is likely to win a heroism medal - all dogs which have passed their tests as rescue or guide dogs and "are ready to protect the public" are given a free pass.
There is also some light at the end of the dog tunnel for those less talented canines. The district of Eschborn in Hesse doesn't charge the tax at all.
With DPA



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