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:
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.
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.
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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.