Six things to know about adopting a dog in Germany

Germany is a nation of dog lovers - many of whom choose to get their pooch from a shelter rather than a breeder. If you're dreaming of adopting a pup of your own, here are six things to bear in mind.

A woman cuddles her adopted dog
A woman cuddles her adopted dog. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/MDR/Alexander Friederici | MDR/Alexander Friederici

1. You’ll have to prove yourself to the animal shelter

Don’t expect to simply window-shop for a dog and come home with it the next day. To really get to know your future animal-companion, the shelter may require several visits – especially with more nervous dogs that take a while to warm up to strangers.

You should also expect a house visit so that the rescue centre can assess whether your living space would be safe and spacious enough for the dog in question. Rescue centres often give details of the kind of environment they’re looking for in the description of the animal so potential owners can see if they can offer the pup the home it needs. 

Along with assessments of your house or flat, you may be asked questions about your working habits, living arrangements, plans for the future and experience with dogs or that particular breed of dog. This is to ensure that your lifestyle will be a good fit for your new pet and to minimise the chance of you having to give the animal back in the future. 

2. You may need permission from your landlord 

Tenancy laws can differ from place to place, but the general rule of thumb when getting a dog is that you’ll need to ask your landlord for permission first. 

They will have to give a good reason for saying no, but a lot may depend on the breed and size of the dog and the likelihood of noise complaints. For a full rundown of what renters should know about keeping pets, check out the below article:

Renting in Germany: What you need to know about keeping pets

3. It doesn’t have to cost the world…

You may feel like there are financial barriers to adopting a pet, but the biggest and most well-funded animal shelters in Germany try to make this less of an issue. Tierheim Berlin, for example, generally covers the cost of medication and medical treatment for elderly animals that are adopted, and you can also get free food for the dog if you pick it up yourself. However, there may be a small adoption fee to pay first.

Check with the animal shelter to see what ongoing costs they’re willing to cover – and how high their adoption fees are. 

READ ALSO: Furry friends help Germans ease pandemic blues

4. … but be prepared for additional taxes 

If you’re getting a dog, remember that you will need to register it at your local Bürgeramt and that it will also be subject to “dog tax” (Hundesteuer). The amount of this tax varies from state to state, and could be anywhere from €90 in Hamburg to €186 in Rhineland-Palatinate. The aim of this tax is to prevent people getting too many dogs, so the amount goes up for every additional dog you get. 

Some states provide relief from dog tax if you get your dog from a rescue home. In Berlin, for example, you won’t have to pay dog tax for the first five years. 

To see how high the current dog tax is across different states, check out this helpful chart.

Adorable mongrel Leo hangs out at an animal shelter in Hamburg

Adorable mongrel Leo hangs out at an animal shelter in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius


5. Insurance can be handy (and may be mandatory)

In Germany, you’re held legally accountable for any mischief your dog gets up to, so if you haven’t already, it may be advisable to get personal liability insurance. In states such as Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Thuringia and Berlin, this insurance is mandatory, while in North Rhine-Westphalia, it is mandatory for anyone with an animal larger than 40cm.

You may also want to take out pet insurance for any unforeseen costs such as hefty veterinary bills. 

6. You shouldn’t give up on the first go

It’s important to understand is that, even if it doesn’t look like it, there’s likely to be a suitable pup at the shelter for you. It can be easy to overlook an animal that may actually have the perfect personality traits and needs for your lifestyle and home environment, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there! 

The best way to find out is to build a relationship with the shelter and show that you’re a reliable and dedicated person. You could even volunteer as a dog walker – but since this is Germany, you may need a special dog walkers’ licence first.

Once they know your circumstances, they may recommend a dog they think would be happy to live with you – so don’t give up right away just because you don’t live in a sprawling ranch in the countryside or have a PhD in Dog Psychology. 

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EXPLAINED: The rules foreigners should know about German church weddings

If you are planning your wedding day in Germany, you might be thinking about saying your vows in a church even if you are not a member of a German church. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

EXPLAINED: The rules foreigners should know about German church weddings

So you’ve fallen in love in Germany and you and your partner now want to affirm that you’ll stay together “until death do us part”. Congratulations!

Now the hard work begins. You have to pick a wedding venue, whittle down your invitation list and probably arrange for friends and family to come from some far flung part of the world.

Another complication will be picking the location for the wedding ceremony itself. If you want to marry in a church there are quite a few rules you will need to know about.

Here’s a little help.

The paperwork

An important point about getting married in Germany, which everyone should know, is that a church wedding does not actually count in any bureaucratic sense as getting married.

You will need to first get married at a Standesamt (registry office) before you can marry in the Church.

READ ALSO: ‘Ja, ich will’: What it’s like to get married in Germany 

The Catholic church

If you are both Catholics who were baptised in your home country but you’ve never joined the church in Germany, it should be relatively straightforward to sort things out with a church in your neighbourhood.

“The Catholic Church doesn’t see people as foreigners,” Stefan Förner, a spokesman for the Berlin Diocese, told The Local.

“With proof of your affiliation to the Catholic Church, you can basically get married anywhere,” he added.

If baptismal certificates have to be translated from a less common language this can “lead to delays,” he warns. However, in a lot of cases, catholic baptismal certificates are written in the religion’s universal language of Latin – which makes things much easier.

“Basically, there is no need for additional documents because someone is not a German citizen,” Förner reassures.

Another rule that is important to know: if one of you is a Catholic and the other belongs to another denomination, it is still possible to tie the knot in a Catholic church.

“As far as other Christian churches are concerned, we speak of a so-called confession-dividing or -connecting marriage,” says Förner.

“A lot then depends on what the other churches understand a marriage ceremony to be: for Catholics and Orthodox Christians it is a sacrament, for the churches of the Reformation it is not.”

Förner says that the best thing to do is to arrange a meeting between the clerics from each of your churches so they can reach an agreement on how to proceed. This is especially easy in the capital. “That’s the beauty of Berlin: there are Christians from almost all countries and from different denominations.”

If you are a member of the Catholic Church you can also marry someone who is not religious. Again though, the Church recommends a tailored service that is appropriate to the beliefs of both bride and groom.

This also goes for members of other faiths. The Diocese of Mainz says that it welcomes ceremonies between a Catholic and a Muslim and that priests are happy to conduct such ceremonies outside of the church if that makes both families feel more comfortable.

On the other hand, if neither bride nor groom is a member of the church then you will not be able to marry in a Catholic church.

If you still want to use a church as a backdrop for your ceremony, you can still look into renting one which has been deconsecrated and is now used as an event location.

A bride and groom sit in a church at a German wedding in June 2021.

A bride and groom sit in a church at a German wedding in June 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Silas Stein

Protestant churches

Getting married in a Protestant church in Germany if you are a member of a Protestant church in your homeland is a bit more complicated.

“Our relationships with the various protestant churches in other European countries vary from confession to confession and so there is no one answer to how this could be arranged,” Bernd Tiggemann, a spokesman for the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKB), told the Local.

Tiggermann also points out that an Anglican couple who wanted to use a protestant church for their ceremony should contact one of the many English-speaking ministries in Germany. It would also be possible to use a protestant church for the service. This is something you would have to discuss with the local chapter of the EKB. 

Other than that, the rules in the protestant church are similar to those in the Catholic church. If one of the couple if a member of the church then they can marry a Catholic, a non-believer or a member of another faith in a church service.

If neither of you are church members, then it won’t be possible for you to marry in a protestant church.

The EKB reminds people who were once congregants and have since left that getting married might be a good time to consider rejoining.

What about other ceremonies?

Most other important church ceremonies, such as baptism and confirmation, involve becoming a member of the church or reaffirming one’s belief. Obviously, it makes no sense to perform these if one is not a member of the church.

Another delicate religious ceremony that people might want to have carried out in a church is a funeral service.

Basically, there is no rule in the German churches stopping a priest from conducting a funeral service for a non-believer.

Both the Catholic and protestant churches leave it largely up to their pastors to decide whether they are prepared to conduct a funeral service for someone who is not a church member.

This appears to be quite a sensitive issue. Clerics who are open to conducting such ceremonies are only likely to do so if the deceased was once a member of the church and indicated in his or her final days that they were once again finding their way to God.

But many clerics will refuse such a request from the deceased’s family, saying that the decision to leave the church has to be taken seriously.