Germany is actually a very pet friendly country; you'll see pets in Germany everywhere, the outdoor barn cat, the dog on the train or bus, in the car, at the mall, or the park, and even in many restaurants (where you can often find the waiter will bring your dog a water bowl as well).  If you're lucky you might even see someone walking around downtown with a friendly pet rat or parrot on their shoulder. However, dogs, in particular, are very welcome in Germany, and they are allowed in most German businesses, aside from the grocery store, and in almost any public space. Dogs are also allowed in parks (but for health and safety reasons they are not allowed on playgrounds) and on all public transportation*. Still there are a few important rules to follow when you have a dog in Germany.

1) German Leash Laws

Please remember that your dog should be kept on a leash most of the time. There are some exceptions, but even then, unless your dog is exceptionally well trained, he or she should stay on the leash. While walking outside of public places and housing areas, dogs are allowed off the leash (i.e. in fields or while walking in the woods), but your dog should be put on the leash or called to you temporarily when passing others.  Always, always pick up after your pet! If you’re going out and about with your pup it’s high time you bought yourself a doggy bag dispensary that you can attach to your leash. I personally find this the easiest way to ensure that I always have a doggy bag with me. Some parks will have dispensaries for bags, but they won’t always be full and Germans well be very upset with you if you leave doggy-poo on the ground in the parks where they like to walk and where children play…heck most decent American’s would be upset with you too. Failing to pick up after you pet can result in you being charged a fine.

2) German Health and Safety Regulations

All dogs in Germany should be up-to-date on their vaccines, most importantly their rabies vaccine. It is also expected that all dogs are microchipped.  You’ll need a good flea and tick medication in most parts of Germany, especially if you’ll be walking through the fields and woods. I personally would recommend asking a German vet about BRAV ECTO, it’s a digestible flea and tick medication for dogs. It’s been the most effective one I’ve found, and unlike some topical flea and tick medications, it poses no threat to our feline friends (and you don’t have to worry about that icky 24 hours where you aren’t supposed to touch their back or bathe them).  If you’re an American you need to register your dog on base with the American Veterinarian. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to pay the German “dog-tax.” Germans are also required to have insurance for their pets (in case they cause an accident or harm to another). This is something that most Americans who fall under the SOFA agreement do not need—but I would check with your local vet to be sure as the law does differ in certain regions. Once you’re here you might want to register your dog with TASSO as an extra safety precaution. It’s free, and can help you find your pet if they ever get off the leash or out of the house. The TASSO website is all in German, so maybe ask a German friend or neighbor to help you translate so you can fill out the form online: TASSO will send you a tag for your pet’s collar. Lastly it’s important to know that Germans expect you to buckle or secure your dog while driving. This means having a doggy harness and buckle combo, a car-crate, or a backseat barrier. While this law isn’t largely enforced, it is for you and your pet’s safety.

3) Other Important German Laws

The number one mistake Americans make is leaving their dog in a crate all day—in Germany it is technically illegal to leave your dog alone for more than five hours. This means anyone working an 8 hour day should plan for someone to come by and let their dog out in between. German Animal Protection Laws apply to all animals, not just dogs, and breaking these laws can result in fines and eventually the animal being removed from the home.  It is also illegal, on the other hand, to keep the dog outside all day. Generally a dog should be treated with respect; a dog should be kept indoors with a minimum of an hour of outdoor activity each day. A dog should not be left chained up under any circumstances; dogs should also not be kept solely on balconies or in bathrooms or basements. Animal abuse is taken seriously here; if a dog is at risk and needs to be removed from the home, you can expect a prison sentence up to three years or a fine as high as 25,000 Euros. Excessive barking or noise from a dog (especially during quiet hours) can also be fined. Make sure your dog doesn’t bark more than 10 minutes straight. If your dog has a barking problem, it’s best to see a dog trainer; shock collars are also illegal here.

4) Traveling with your pet (The EU Pet Passport)

If you want to take your pet with you around Germany and Europe you’re in luck, because there are plenty of pet-friendly hotels! However, when travelling outside of Germany you’ll need to go to your local German vet and obtain an EU Pet Passport. This is a relatively simple document that contains your pet’s health records, microchip, name, and usually a photo. This helps incoming countries know that your pet is healthy!

5) Adoption Rules and Regulations within the EU

Unfortunately, Americans in Germany (mostly military families) have a bad history of abandoning their pets. I know it isn’t fair to generalize, but it eventually became so bad that many local Tierheims (animal shelters) stopped adopting out to Americans all together. Let me be clear, a German adoption agency, whether it be a rescue or a shelter, expects you to understand the full implication of what adopting an animal means. It means caring for that animal for the rest of its life; it does not mean caring for that animal until you have to move. There are, of course, unforeseen circumstances where one must give up a loved family pet—but moving is almost never one of them. I grew up in a military family, and our furry band of family friends came with us no matter where we went. The few rescues and agencies that do adopt out to Americans usually do extensive family interviews and home checks. You’ll also be expected to pay a fair amount and to sign a contract saying you’ll take care of the pet the way that you should and that you will alert the rescue or agency in case anything prevents you for caring for the pet. Simply giving the animal to someone else is not an option. If you want to add a furry friend to your family, make sure you take this into consideration and remember, snub nosed breeds are banned on many airlines. This includes Pugs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih tzu’s, some mastiffs and boxers, and Pekingese dogs; Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese cats.  These animals are statistically more likely to die when travelling on a plane.

If you’re looking to adopt, check with your local community first; many community Facebook pages and yard sale sites will have pets that are looking for new homes. You can google search for German rescues and check with your local vet and Tierheim. Germans are more likely to adopt to families that are staying here long term or who have a good track record with their pets.

On a side note, while Germany has amazing animal protection laws and Tierheims, that isn’t the case for many of our neighboring countries. This is why you’ll see so many foreign rescues that are overflowing with dogs and cats that need new homes.

I adopted Biene and Aunna while I was living in Albuquerque, and they have travelled with me from New Mexico, to Florida, to Georgia to Germany. I adopted my beautiful Benny-BooBoo from Retriever in Not (a German rescue that got Benny from Czechoslovakia where he’d been living as a breeding pup in an itty bitty cage) after a long process of interviews and a home visit. He’s been the best little pug a girl could ask for!

I hope you and your furry friend make the most out of time in Europe!

*Note, if you are taking your pet on the train for a longer trip you may have to pay a small fee; check when you buy your tickets.

Oh, and just a small tip from me as a pet owner, Fressnapf (a German pet-supply store) is the best place to go for healthy dog and cat (and bunny/bird) food; they also have fun dog treats, toys, beds, etc. Dogs are allowed in the store with you, and the staff, in my experience, is always helpful and friendly. It's great to be able to try out leashes, harnesses, collars, etc. before purchasing. That way you know it fits and works well for you and your pet. I feed my pups the Fressnapf brand Real Nature—it comes highly recommended from the store employees and my vet. There's a variety of food types for different doggy needs, and the ingredients are real, no preservatives or color additives, and my dogs love it.