Everything you need to know about having a pet in Germany
Whether you're bringing your furry friend from abroad or planning to adopt one, here are some key things you should know about having pets in Germany.
Bringing pets to Germany
For many people, a pet is part of the family. But there's no need to leave a family member behind when you move, as each person moving to Germany from outside of the EU is allowed to bring up to five animals with them. These animals must be household pets and cannot be brought to the country to be sold or traded.
This can be any combination of five animals, except in the case of rabbits as any more than three is considered commercial trade in pets. Although how anyone could possibly run a successful trading business with just four or five rabbits I do not know.
A fairly large range of creatures can be brought into Germany as a pet but if your pet is a little less conventional it is probably best to check it isn't mentioned in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) website.
Just like in many countries around the world, ownership of certain breeds of dog is restricted in Germany.
Although it varies a little from state to state, this list usually includes 'Kampfhunde', meaning 'fighting dogs' which are breeds like Pitbull-Terriers, Staffordshire-Bull terriers, American Staffordshire-Terriers, Bull terriers and any related crossbreeds. For a full list of categories for each state click here.
Pet immigration laws
Whether you're a human or not, immigration in Germany is dealt with by 'der Zoll'.
Just like humans, dogs, cats and ferrets need their own passports, but unlike humans, they must also be microchipped by a vet and their pet passports should be filled in with details of the animal's vaccinations.
Luckily there is no need for your pets to be quarantined on arrival in Europe if they are up to date with the proper vaccinations (rabies for dogs, cats and ferrets and avian flu for birds).
Make sure your pet is old enough before you plan a move though as puppies and kittens under 15 weeks old cannot be brought to the EU. This is because they are given their first rabies shot at 12 to 24 weeks old, followed by a minimum 30-day waiting period.
If you're moving within the EU similar rules apply so make sure your pet's passport is up to date. But if your pets are on the smaller side, like guinea pigs, rabbits and rodents, there's no need for a passport.
Pets in rented accommodation
It goes without saying that before bringing a pet into rented accommodation, you need to check whether your landlord allows it.
You're likely to be allowed a pet in long-term rented accommodation - particularly houses - but if you're in a city apartment you're much more likely to come across restrictions.
Service dogs can be an exception to the rules when it comes to animal bans, but laws on service dogs vary from state to state so it's probably a good idea to just find an animal-friendly landlord to begin with.
Smaller pets such as hamsters or fish are also sometimes an exception to the rule, as well as some more off-the-wall creatures such as hedgehogs and chameleons.
Dogs in Germany need to be licensed and are subject to a 'Hundesteuer', meaning 'dog tax'.
Most European countries scrapped the dog tax in the 20th century but Germany still stubbornly refuses to change the law. This is possibly because the dog tax is big business in Germany; in Berlin alone, dog owners paid €11 million in 'dog tax' last year.
Dog owners pay a lot more dog tax per animal if they have multiple dogs. This is because the aim of the tax is to keep dog ownership down.
Luckily there are circumstances in which you are exempt from paying the dog tax, for example, if your dog is a service dog. Good news for adoptive pet owners too: if your dog is a rescue dog, you are exempt from paying dog tax for the first year.
Cat owners can be smug in the knowledge that, while cats do need to be licensed, they are not subject to any kind of tax.
Photo: Anja Samy.
300,000 animals are in need of adoption every year in Germany.
If you decide to adopt a pet, the best way to go about it is to go to a 'Tierheim', meaning animal shelter. A good thing about adopting from a shelter is that all animals are microchipped, come with a pet passport and will have up-to-date vaccinations.
Shelters tend not to let you 'reserve' an animal so expect to start the adoption process the same day as choosing your pet. You can also often come home with your new furry friend that day. Because of this, it's best not to look around if you're not going to choose an animal that day because you may come back another day to find that the one you fell in love with was adopted by someone else.
Once you've chosen your new pet you'll need to fill out the necessary paperwork. You'll be required to provide contact details, proof of ID and a copy of your 'Anmeldung', or proof that you live in Germany.
After that you'll be required to pay the adoption fee: around €205 for dogs, €65 to €85 for cats, €20 for rabbits and €2 to €25 for smaller animals. These fees cover care, vaccinations, microchipping and spay or neutering.
After that, the animal is all yours to take home (in a box or travel crate provided by yourself).
Be warned though, Germans take animal welfare very seriously so expect hundreds of questions from the shelter about everything from your house and garden size to your working hours and family to whether you promise not to abandon your pet when you do move.
Some shelters may even want to view your house before letting you adopt a cat or dog - so check it's suitably sized.
Known as 'Tierartz', which directly translates to 'animal doctor', Germany is by no means short of vets.
It's a good idea to register with a local vet on arrival as this will make things easier in an emergency as they'll already have your pet's details.
Appointments are not usually necessary and payment is typically made directly after treatment, meaning veterinary clinics are one of the few places in cash-happy Germany you can guarantee will take card.
There's no need to worry if your German doesn't yet include an extensive medical vocabulary as vets often speak a little English.
But if the language barrier gets in the way there's no need to panic. Vets are used to working out what is wrong with patients who meow, bark or squeak instead of explaining their symptoms, so they will find a way to assess what is wrong with your furry friend.
Out and about
Germany is incredibly dog-friendly; whether you're in the countryside or a big city, you are unlikely to go more than 500 metres without walking past a dog. Some offices even allow you to bring your dog to work - an added bonus for anyone who left a beloved dog with family when they moved here.
Even though you cannot bring a dog into a supermarket in Germany unless it is a service dog, many restaurants are happy to accommodate furry friends. But to be safe it's best to check with a server on arrival.
Pets are also allowed on public transport provided you keep your cat or other small pet in a travel box. You may also be required to buy your dog a ticket - usually at half normal price - and to keep your dog on a short leash.
That being said, most people tend to turn a blind eye if your dog is well trained enough not to need a lead (but you didn't hear that from us).
Photo: Virginia Saul
While pet insurance is of course very helpful for unexpected vet's bills, Germany also has another kind of pet insurance called 'Hundehaftpflichtversicherung'.
This tongue twister directly translates to 'dog liability insurance'. This is a legal requirement in case they cause some kind of property damage or accident.
In other words, just like your insurance covers you when driving if you crash into another car, your dog insurance will cover you if your dog causes, for example, a bike crash.
Germany, of course, has rules regarding animals in public places, though like all things they vary from state to state.
Dogs are not allowed in children's playgrounds and, although they are allowed in parks, it is best not to let your dog use these areas as a toilet as once again children tend to play there.
Not to point fingers but Germans tend to be better at bothering to scoop the poop than certain other European countries. Part of the reason for this is common courtesy but there is also the added motivation of avoiding a fine which could run up to thousands of euros.
Dogs must be kept on a lead in public and residential areas. In other places, they can run around off the lead but should usually be put back on the lead or called to you when someone approaches.
You could also happily walk your ferret or even your cat if you really wanted to in Germany, but you're likely to get one or two funny looks.