Having a Pet in Germany
Last updated: 06 April 2020 / by Sam Williams
A note about COVID-19: This guide is based on the general rules, but there may be some temporary restrictions in place due to the presence of the COVID-19 virus. We are keeping the situation under close review and will update our guidance as necessary.
Check the current travel restrictions by the Federal Foreign Office: Coronavirus and entry restrictions
Cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, rabbits, reptiles….us humans love to live with our pets!
Moving to another country does not eliminate the need for animal companions, and the good news is that Germany is a nation of pet-lovers.
However, as you might expect, there are some strict rules about having a pet in Germany which start before you have even entered the country.
If you are thinking of bringing your pet to Germany, make sure you start planning with the help of this guide.
Bringing Your Pet to Germany
If you already have a pet, you may hope to bring them to Germany when you move. Whether you live inside or outside the EU, this should be possible, but different rules will apply.
Note: no matter where you’re coming from, you won’t be able to enter the country with more than 5 pets.
The Customs Office in Germany, known as the Zollamt, is the department that deals with importing animals. Generally, you can import the following animals as pets:
- Guinea Pigs
- Other rodents
- Carrier pigeons
- Other species of birds
- Turtles or tortoises (providing they are not listed a being an endangered species)
- Ornamental fish
It is possible to bring in other types of animals as pets, but you’ll need to check the regulations individually. The German Consulate or Embassy in your home country will be able to provide up-to-date guidance on this. Care is needed with any animal classified as exotic or listed as an endangered species.
Traveling from outside the EU
Traveling from outside the EU means stricter rules, but with some planning, it’s still possible to move to Germany with your animals.
To gain entry to the country with a dog, cat or ferret, you must supply the following for each:
Valid proof of vaccination against rabies in the last year, at least 30 days prior traveling
- Microchipping, tattoo ID or another type of identifier
- A certificate of health from a vet
- A blood test confirming the efficacy of the rabies vaccination (dated at least three months before entry and 30 days after the vaccination)*
* This requirement will only apply to certain countries and will typically not be requested for the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and selected other nations.
Certain countries may have additional specifications. For example, those arriving from peninsular Malaysia must confirm there has been no contact with pigs, and carry a valid Nipah disease negative test result.
If you’re bringing in a parrot or a parakeet, you’ll need a vet’s certificate of health. These are only valid for a 10-day period so the timing will need be planned carefully. You’ll also need proof of avian flu vaccinations (A1 and HSN1). If your birds don’t have this, they will be quarantined for 10 days upon entry.
Traveling with rabbits, guinea pigs or other rodents doesn’t present any special challenges, and providing you don’t exceed the permitted number, the entry should be uncomplicated. You may find that you’re not allowed to bring more than three of any animal into Germany.
Traveling from inside the EU
It’s easier to travel to Germany from inside the EU, but you still must comply with the law.
For cats, dogs and ferrets you’ll need:
- Microchipping, tattoo ID or another type of identifier
- Pet passport
- Confirmation of a valid and current rabies vaccination
Parrots and parakeets will need a vet’s certificate of health; this is only valid for 10 days, so it must be obtained close to the date of travel. A pet passport doesn’t apply to rodents, rabbits, reptiles or fish.
Rabbits, guinea pigs and other rodents can generally travel without restrictions providing the total number permitted isn’t exceeded. This may be no more than three of any particular type of animal, but confirmation should be sought before travel. Special care should be taken over reptiles as there may be special conditions for entry.
You can find the latest travel rules for pets from both outside and inside the EU at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
There is excellent veterinary care available in Germany; look for listings for a Tierarzt (a vet) or a Tierklinik (animal clinic). It’s highly recommended to find and register with a vet on arrival in Germany, as should the need arise, you’ll have immediate access to the care your pet needs.
Just like elsewhere, some vets specialize in small animals only (kleintiere).
As you will discover, Germany is a country that likes to be prepared and health insurance for pets is common. Payment is normally expected right away, and without insurance, that can mean a hefty bill. For pets where there could be extensive treatment, it’s standard practice to obtain animal health insurance in Germany.
If you’re planning on renting your property in Germany, choose a residence that suits your pet too. German courts don’t allow a blanket ban on all pets by landlords, but it’s expected that you will seek the landlord’s permission to keep any animals.
Cats and small animals should not usually pose any problems, but some landlords may be hesitant to allow dogs. This is especially the case on shared complexes or when the breed is deemed to be dangerous (see more below).
Dogs in Germany
Dog ownership in Germany is more complicated than other types of pets, and there is a greater range of regulations that apply.
In addition to the above conditions for entry, there are some further restrictions for dogs that are considered to be dangerous. These breeds are split into categories, and may not be permitted entry into Germany.
The decision depends on exactly where you plan on traveling, as each state has rules which vary slightly. The breed of dog will also determine the outcome as some are not permitted to enter at all, while others must pass a test to stay. Those that can enter Germany will often be subject to much stricter rules, such as being muzzled and kept on a leash.
Taxes and fees
Unlike other small animals, owners must register and tax their dogs while in Germany. This tax is known as Hundesteuer and is available from the local town hall (the Bürgeramt). Different rates of dog tax apply depending on the breed of dog.
Not every German state charges the same rate per dog, plus in some cases, a higher tariff may apply for second and third dogs. This is because the tax is designed to discourage one person from having too many canines.
There are some exceptions to the Hundesteuer; service dogs for the disabled and dogs used by gamekeepers and forestry officials don’t have to pay. Rescue dogs adopted within Germany are also exempt for the first year.
Dog Liability Insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung)
In Germany, individuals are expected to take responsibility for any damage they cause, and this extends to their pets. Most individuals have personal liability insurance, and dog liability insurance is recommended too.
Known as Hundehaftpflichtversicherung, it’s compulsory in some states and highly advisable in the rest. Even the best-behaved dog could have a mishap, and in Germany that could lead to costly consequences with no liability insurance in place.
Life in Germany With Pets
Germans take their pets very seriously, and they’re considered an integral part of the family.
If you’re on public transport, it’s fine to take your dog although you may have to buy them a ticket. You will even find some restaurants and cafes welcome well-behaved dogs.
Look for a sign on the window of an establishment to see if your dog is allowed inside. If they’re not, you’ll normally see a picture of a dog and text that reads something like “Wir müssen leider daraussen warten” which translates as “unfortunately we must wait outside”.
Pets are an essential part of every family, and if you’re moving to Germany, it’s often possible to take your animal companions along.
The key is checking everything in advance and making sure you have all the preparations in place for your arrival to go smoothly.