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Pets in Germany

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

There are rules and regulations involved in bringing your pet to Germany as well as various regulations involved in licensing certain pets when they are here. And, there are regulations for travel through and to other EU countries with your pet.

Bringing your pet(s) to Germany from a non-EU country

Transporting your pet
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.

To prevent the illegal and unethical trade of animals, owners of pets must accompany their pets or travel within five days of the pet – either before or after. (If the animal travels more than five days before or after the arrival of the owner, then the pet has to meet different and more stringent requirements before they are allowed into Germany.)

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Entering Germany

Each person moving to Germany from outside the EU is allowed to bring in a maximum of five animals as part of their "personal or household items". The animals should be family "pets" and not brought to Germany to be traded or sold.

Animals brought into Germany (and other mainland European countries in the EU) do not have to be quarantined if they have the proper vaccinations (and the paperwork to prove that) and if they come from a country on a EU approved list. More information on the harmonization of EU country regulations regarding pets can be found at this link.

Since pets are regarded as part of the importation of household goods and personal items, there are certain rules and regulations that apply to them. The German Customs Office (Zollamt) is the federal agency charged with making sure that pet owners comply with the rules. The animals that are screened and can be approved for import by the Customs Office include cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and other rodents, horses, turtles or tortoises (if not considered an endangered species), ornamental fish, parrots and parakeets, carrier pigeons and other types of birds. If you want to bring in any other type of animal you should check with the German Embassy or Consulate in your home country to see what procedures you may need to follow. This especially applies to animal species that may be on an endangered species list or other "exotic" pets.

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Dogs and Cats (and ferrets)

If you wish to bring a cat or dog into Germany from a country outside the EU, the animal must have been vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days but no more than 12 months prior to its entry. Proof of the vaccination must be presented at the border. This proof can be a form in both German and English that has been completed by your vet. You can download a EU Veterinary Certificate in German/English here.

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 examination certificate. Microchips must be implanted in pets before they get their rabies shots. Microchips are now required for all pets except for those who were tattooed before July 3, 2011.

Certain breeds (and cross 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 and other Category 2 Kampfhund breeds or crossbreeds, 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.

There are generally no special restrictions on the importation of service dogs, but they need to meet the vaccination and identification requirements.

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Other pets

Birds
Proof of vaccination against Avian Flu (A1 and HSN1)) may be required before birds can enter Germany. Birds that may not have been vaccinated face a quarantine of at least 10 days in the country of origin or 30 days in Germany so they can be tested to make sure they do not carry the disease. Birds must also have a veterinarian health certificate proving ownership. These certificates are only valid for 10 days.

Rabbits, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs
There is a limit on the number of rabbits that can be brought into Germany. Only three can be brought in as private pets. Any more than three would fall under the "commercial trade in pets" rules. Hamsters and guinea pigs can be brought in with no conditions, except for being included in the total number of allowable pets.

Snakes, reptiles and other exotic animals
It is recommended to check with the German Embassy or Consulate in your home country before bringing in certain reptiles or other exotic animals to see whether they may fall under the protected or endangered species categories. Certain animals can only be brought into the country through authorized entry points.

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When your pets arrive

If you live in rented quarters you must have the permission of the landlord before keeping a pet.

As in many other countries, dogs must be licensed. A tax on dogs (Hundesteuer) must also be paid. This can vary from state to state and municipality to municipality. Check with the local authorities. Cats need no license, nor are they taxed. Check with the authorities for other rules regarding other pets such as leash laws and rules regarding allowing pets to roam free.

With these and all pets, the owner is legally responsible for anything the animal does. They are subject to lawsuits if, for instance, a dog runs a motorcyclist off the road and he is disabled for life. A personal liability policy that includes coverage of ownership of a dog and other pets is recommended.

Dogs (with the exception of service 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. Many restaurants allow them if they behave properly. 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).

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Veterinarians in Germany

A veterinarian in Germany is called a Tierarzt(in). You can find Tierärtze in print and online telephone listings. There is no shortage of qualified vets in Germany. Many vets also speak English.

Many vet offices have a distinct sign hanging outside their offices - a large V with a snake coiled around a staff inside the letter. A standard vet's office is much like a regular doctor's office. There may be one or two vets and some staff. They can normally perform a number of treatments and administer vaccines and medications. They may also have some basic diagnostic equipment that could include x-ray machines, blood testing equipment and ultrasound equipment.

An animal hospital is called a Tierklinik. A Tierklinik is normally staffed by vets, support staff and veterinary school students doing their practical rotations. The clinics offer the full range of services to include surgeries, overnight boarding for observation and full diagnostic services with modern equipment. They also have staff on hand (or on call) around the clock to handle emergencies.

Payment for your pet's treatment is normally made right away using cash or an EC card. In some cases, the vet may offer to send a bill if you don't have cash on hand.

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Traveling in the EU with your pets

You can take your dog or cat with you when traveling in Germany. Train tickets in Germany can be purchased for them at about half the regular fare.

For travel within European Union countries, qualifying pets (cats and dogs and some others) must now have a passport issued by a licensed veterinarian. The passport serves to properly identify pets and has a record of their vaccinations. It is valid for the life of the pet and is identical for all European countries.

Pet rabbits, rodents, fish and reptiles do not need a passport.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has more information on the movement of pets at this link.

You can download pdf samples of passports here.

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