Pet parenting in Germany
Getting your furry family members here was nerve-racking enough, but upset neighbors and displeased authorities can add to the stress of acclimating to a new place. You and your animal buddies will have a lot more fun if you understand the local laws and courtesies of pet ownership.
The majority of regulations for domestic animals are related to dogs, cats and ferrets. To enter Germany, you should have furnished a certificate of health, as well as proof that your pet has an international microchip and a rabies vaccination that meets OIE standards. Register your pet’s microchip with Tasso.net so that it can be found in Germany. Rabies (Tollwut) is an issue in Europe, so keep this vaccination current while stationed here. Because fleas and ticks are also prevalent, consider preventative treatments and the Lyme disease vaccination.
Within 14 days of your pet’s arrival or adoption, you should register with the local military vet clinic. Your pets must have identification tags and should not wander freely. You are responsible — and can be sued — for damages to individuals or property caused by your pet, so purchase liability insurance. Coverage is inexpensive and will save you from any future headaches.
Additional regulations for dogs
If you live off base, you may be required to register your dog at your village’s Rathaus; ask your veterinarian about local requirements. Keep your dog leashed in populated areas and any time someone approaches — you can be fined for violations. Dogs are usually banned from gardens, playgrounds, cemeteries and historical grounds. You are expected to give your dog adequate attention and exercise. If left outside, dogs need insulated shelters, water, shade and sufficient space.
There’s a saying in Germany that barking dogs are worse than biting dogs, though neither is tolerated. Barking, howling or whining for 10 minutes continuously, or more than 30 minutes total, per day is considered a noise disturbance and could lead to neighbors contacting local authorities. Aggressive dogs must be muzzled in public.
But enough with the rules! The great part of living in Germany is that dogs are often allowed in restaurants, shops and other businesses, provided they are well-behaved. Good dogs are often rewarded with lots of attention from passers-by. Watch out — your dog may feel like a superstar and start expecting the royal treatment all the time.
If your dog doesn’t have the best manners, it’s not a lost cause. With obedience classes (Hundeschule) readily available, you’ll be able to reign in a free-spirited pup.
When traveling by car, pets must be restrained. This prevents them from becoming distractions and keeps everyone safer in case of an accident. If you’re taking the train, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for your pet, usually at a reduced rate. Traveling with a pet by air is affordable and fairly stress-free with some airlines, such as Lufthansa, but it depends on the pet’s breed and size.
You’ll also find that many hotels allow pets, charging only a small fee per night.
Visiting a new country every weekend? Find a kennel or reliable pet sitter now, and plan ahead. They often book up months in advance for the summer and Christmas season, and additional vaccines, such as the nasal Bordetella series, may be required prior to boarding. Also note that German kennels do not generally provide as much socialization as expected of U.S. pet hotels, so pet sitters may be better for your canine companion.
Like the rest of the family, your pets need passports before traveling outside of Germany. Pet passports are issued by local national veterinarians and provide certified records of vaccination. In most European Union countries, you will need only the passport to cross the border. However, you should review local laws governing vaccinations, care and breed restrictions for the destination country. Also, make sure that restrictions will not prohibit your pet's re-entry into Germany. Contact your vet for more information.
Most installation vet offices do not provide after-hours emergency care, so ask for a list of clinics (Tierarztpraxis) on the German economy. Visit a couple to find one that is right for you, and establish a relationship so that you will feel confident going there if an emergency arises. Many vet clinics have English-speaking staff and accept VAT forms.
Shipping pets now
If you arrived without pets and ship them later, you’ll need the aforementioned vaccinations and health records. If arriving at Frankfurt or Ramstein, you’ll be charged an importation fee. Contact the Frankfurt airport’s animal protection officer at +49 (0) 6969021366 if your pet will be arriving there unaccompanied. Pet travel during extreme summer and winter temperatures may be prohibited, depending on the breed and airline. Dogs descending from dangerous breeds may be forbidden from importation.
Caring for your pet
Animal cruelty, neglect, and abandonment will be investigated and, if guilty, is punishable under UCMJ and German law. Please don't abandon your pets if circumstances arise that prevent you from caring for them. Contact your local veterinary clinic or animal shelter (Tierheim) to help facilitate adoption. Your pet deserves the best care possible.
Checklist for pet parents
- Ensure pet has international microchip.
- Keep rabies vaccination current.
- Register with military vet and Rathaus.
- Find German vet clinic.
- Get pet passport (if necessary) and ID tags.
- Purchase pet insurance.
- Give flea, tick and parasite preventatives.
- Schedule Lyme disease vaccination if indicated by your veterinarian.
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