Pets in Germany

The Germans love their pets just as much as any other people, but they have a lot of rules concerning them.

If you wish to bring a cat or dog into Germany, the animal must have been vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days but no more than 12 months prior to its entry. Proof of examination must be presented at the border.

It is a European Union requirement that dogs and cats have an identification number, either on a clearly visible tattoo or as a microchip, and that this number corresponds to one on the proof of examination. (For travel between European Union countries, the pets must now have a passport, issued by a licensed veterinarian.)

If you live in rented quarters you must have the permission of the landlord before keeping a pet, and, as in the U.S., dogs must be licensed. Cats need no license. Check with the authorities for rules regarding other pets.

Certain breeds of dogs present special problems. The rules vary from state to state in Germany, but most consider Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers too dangerous. Their import is banned. Several of the states, including Bavaria, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, also have what they consider a Category 2 Kampfhund, and this includes the Rottweiler.

There is no outright ban on the import of Rottweilers, but they must be submitted to a viciousness test. If they pass the test they are treated like any other dog. But if they fail they are subject to the same rules as the Pit Bulls and Terriers. If they are not outright banned from the state they face a high licensing fee, must be neutered and must be muzzled and kept on a leash whenever they are off the owner's property.

For more detailed information on which breeds may be banned and in which states the ban is effective it would be wise to contact a specialist in importing pets. You can also go to www.zoll.de for a detailed list of banned breeds and other information about restrictions on dangerous dogs.

With these and all pets, the owner is legally responsible for anything the animal does. They are subject to huge lawsuits if, for instance, a dog runs a motorcyclist off the road and he is disabled for life. A personal liability policy arising out of ownership of a dog costs about €70 a year in Germany. It's a good idea to obtain this insurance.

Dogs are not allowed in grocery stores, butcher shops and other shops where fresh food is sold. Some Konditerei, or cafes, don't allow them either. Establishments that don't want you to bring your dog inside will have a small sign affixed on the window. It usually shows a picture of a dog and will read something like, Wir müssen leider daraussen warten (unfortunately, we must wait outside).

You can take your dog or cat with you when traveling. Train tickets in Germany can be purchased for them at about half the regular fare. Rules for air transport of animals vary from airline to airline, but, in response to customer demand, they are usually friendly about it. The airline should be notified when you book the flight if you plan to take a pet.

It's almost always required that the traveling animal be in a shipping crate that is sturdy, properly ventilated and large enough so that the pet may freely stand, turn around and lie down. Prescribed crates are available at pet stores and from most airlines. Remember to check with the airline when in doubt.

The crate usually goes in a pressurized cargo bay, though some airlines allow passengers to carry their pets in the cabin if the crate can fit under a seat.

There are pet travel services that can be useful, especially if the animal won't be accompanied by the owner. They also can advise on pitfalls to shipment such as a quarantine period at the destination.