Pets in Germany
Germany is a wonderful place for pets. There is an extremely welcoming culture for pets and plenty of legislation for pet welfare. As a result, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules for pet ownership, whether you are bringing one in from abroad or planning to acquire a pet locally. Read on for tips about handling bureaucracy and getting your pet the best care in Stuttgart.
Getting Your Pet (In)
Bringing Your Pet from Abroad
Germany allows any non-EU individual moving to Germany to bring as many as five animals as family pets. The exact kinds of pets allowed are regulated by the German Customs Office as part of the importation of household goods, but they include most common pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, parrots, parakeets, and certain other types of birds. You can find more information in English on this page by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. More exotic pets, including many kinds of birds and reptiles, require a special permit and may be allowed to come into Germany at certain authorized entry points.
Every German state (Bundesland) has its own rules about which dog breeds are considered dangerous. Some dog breeds or crossbreeds are not allowed to enter at all, while others may be subjected to an aggressiveness test, neutered, and required to be kept muzzled and leashed when not on the owner’s property. Currently in Baden-Württemberg all dog breeds are allowed, but there are restrictions on several dog breeds. Three in particular are strictly controlled and considered “fighting dogs” by default: American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers, and pit bull terriers. You need permission from the local police in order to keep such a dog, which means demonstrating to a veterinarian and police dog handler your expertise in controlling the dog and proof that it poses no danger to anyone else. Not respecting these regulations may result in a fine of several thousand Euro. You can check the current list for Baden-Württemberg of breeds considered dangerous as well as more guidelines for their possession.
Each pet you bring has to have its own official “Non-EU Animal” certificate from a veterinarian (“Tier aus Nicht-EU-Staat”). Depending on the type of animal, the certificate will need to give the details of vaccinations, any blood tests, and the number on the pet’s microchip or tattoo. We’ll look more at those vaccination and registration details in the next section, since they are also relevant for pets adopted or purchased within Germany.
If you are bringing your pets in by air, be sure to contact the airline in advance about their pet policy. You can also check the subsequent section “Traveling with Your Pet” for information about flying with pets.
Adopting a Pet
It’s not hard to find an animal shelter, or “Tierheim,” in Germany with plenty of dogs, cats, and sometimes even reptiles hoping for a home. There are shelters in Stuttgart proper as well as neighboring, Böblingen, Vaihingen, Esslingen, Leonberg, and Ditzingen.
There are two big advantages of adopting a pet from a shelter. First, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are providing a loving home to an animal in need. Since many German shelters do euthanize animals if they are not adopted within a certain period of time, you could literally be saving a life! Second, an animal from a shelter will come to you already vaccinated and registered with a microchip and pet passport (more on those later).
Depending on the shelter, it can take a bit of work to adopt a pet. You will need to answer a lot of questions about your ability to take care of it, since animal welfare is taken seriously in Germany. If they suspect you aren’t able to commit for the lifespan of the pet, you may well be turned down. Some shelters require a home inspection to make sure that you live in a place that’s suitable for the pet you would like to bring home. If you are approved, you will of course need to complete the relevant paperwork and pay an adoption fee.
Buying a Pet
If you have a specific breed of cat or dog in mind, you may need to buy directly from a breeder or pet shop. Buying smaller animals like birds, hamsters, or lizards may also be easier at a pet shop. Pets for sale are also very often advertised in newspapers and websites with classifieds.
No matter where you decide to buy a pet, make sure that you are getting it from someone who is prepared to provide the relevant legal paperwork. Unfortunately some people do steal pets or breed them in unethical conditions, so be cautious if you are offered an animal at what seems like a much lower than average price.
Dealing with Bureaucracy
Most of the paperwork requirements are applicable only for dogs and cats, but there are some rules that owners of other four-legged pets or birds will need to follow.
In the European Union, all dogs and cats must be microchipped with an identification number. It was previously possible to have your pet visibly tattooed with its ID number, but this is now acceptable only for pets who were tattooed before July of 2011. The microchip must have an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit number.
Once your pet has its microchip, you can register it for free (and even in English!) at Tasso.net. The Tasso Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps find lost pets, so please consider donating when you register.
Cats, dogs, and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies. If you’re bringing such a pet in from abroad, they must have been vaccinated at least 30 days before entering Germany and not more than a year beforehand. Puppies and kittens under the age of 15 weeks are not allowed to be brought into Germany. The earliest possible vaccination for them is at 12 weeks of age, and an additional 3 weeks are required to develop antibodies. Be sure to have the veterinarian who administers the vaccinations fill out a certificate for each pet’s vaccination.
If you are coming from a country not listed here, then you will need to have your cat, dog, or ferret tested for rabies antibodies at least 30 days after vaccination and 3 months before entering Germany. This Blood Titer Test must be done by an authorized veterinarian at one of the laboratories listed here.
Birds will need to show proof of vaccination against both H5 and H7 subtypes of avian flu or else be quarantined before or upon arrival in Germany. The length of quarantine depends on the country of origin (full rules here). Each bird must also have a veterinarian health certificate issued no more than 10 days before entering Germany.
If you plan to take your pet from Germany to another EU member state, you will need a pet passport issued by an authorized veterinarian. It will contain a description of your pet, information about ownership, vaccinations, and the state of your pet’s health. Pet passports are valid for the lifetime of your pet.
Cats, dogs, ferrets, and birds must have a pet passport. Rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and fish do not need a passport. Each EU member state may have additional rules regarding the entry of pets, so make sure to research your destination before you travel.
There are two kinds of insurance you should consider for your pets. First, there is pet health insurance, which will take care of most of the costs when taking your pet to a veterinarian. This is probably only worth it for larger pets like dogs and cats. Just search for “Tierkrankenversicherung.”
Secondly, you should be aware that pet owners in Germany are considered fully liable for any damage caused by their pets. This includes direct damage like breaking something or biting someone, but also indirect damage like causing a car to go off the road or a cyclist to crash. If your pet will come into contact with other people or could possibly get out and damage something or someone, you should consider pet liability insurance, or “Tierhaptflichtversicherung.” In six German states this liability insurance is required for all dogs; in Baden-Württemberg it is only required for those categorized as “fighting dogs.” You can search for “Hundehaftpflichtversicherung.”
Dog owners are subjected to a special tax, “Hundesteuer,” that is set by the municipality. This tax is meant to help cover the cost of nuisances caused by dogs, such as droppings not picked up by their owners, as well as to help limit the number of dogs in a municipality. As of 2019, the dog tax in Stuttgart was set at €108 for the first dog, €216 for each additional dog, and €612 for fighting dogs. It is sometimes possible to get an exemption or a reduced tax rate if your dog is a service animal or was rescued from a shelter.
Baden-Wuerttemberg is also planning to introduce a so-called “Hundführerschein,” or dog driver’s license. Modeled after the legislation in Lower Saxony, the license is expected to be required of all new dog owners, with a theoretical exam to be taken prior to getting a dog, and a practical exam to be taken within the first year of dog ownership. It’s not yet clear whether current dog owners will also be subject to examination. Prospective dog owners will need to pay for the tests and for any retesting in case of failure.
Life with Pets
Renting an Apartment
You need to disclose to any potential landlord that you will have pets staying with you before you sign a contract. Pet ownership is quite common in Germany, so it’s likely that you will be able to come to terms with your landlord, particularly for smaller pets, but you mustn’t assume that having a dog will make no difference to them. If you have a rental apartment already and are planning to adopt a pet, talk to your landlord first to check what types or breeds of pets would be acceptable. In some cases your building may also have policies such that all renters and owners need to approve if a dog is to be allowed.
Taking Your Dog Out
Leash laws vary by municipality and state. In Stuttgart, dogs must be kept on a leash in pedestrian zones, in crowds, in public facilities, and at public transport stops. Dogs may be let off the leash in residential areas and in parks (unless otherwise specified) as long as they are able to obey owner commands. Dogs are not allowed to enter playgrounds, however; these are meant to be worry-free zones for kids.
Dogs are not allowed in shops where fresh food is sold, such as grocery stores and butcher shops, but they are allowed in most restaurants, cafés, shops, and malls. Establishments that don’t allow dogs will indicate it with a sign, often an icon of a dog with a message like, “Wir müssen leider draussen warten,” (meaning “Unfortunately we must wait outside”).
In Germany it is a dog owner’s responsibility to scoop up their dog’s waste and dispose of it properly. Many parks have a stand with complimentary plastic bags for just this purpose, but dog owners are responsible for having their own means of disposal when they are out with their dog. Failing to clean up after your dog is likely to result in a sizable fine.
Traveling with Your Pet
If you want to travel by car with your pet, you must make sure they are safely restrained in the back seat or storage area. It is illegal to allow a pet to ride in the front seat of a motor vehicle.
Dogs and other pets are allowed in public transportation. Pets must be in a carrier or on a leash, and dogs should lie down next to the seats and be kept calm. In Stuttgart public transportation, small pets in a carrier may ride free of charge, while dogs on a leash will need to have a child’s ticket. For travel by regional, intercity, and international trains, pets are allowed with a valid ticket (often about half price) and a pet passport.
For air travel, you must have a valid pet passport (even for domestic flights) and a suitable container for your pet. Pets that are small enough to comply with hand luggage size and weight requirements can usually be taken on board, although the airline may have additional requirements. Larger pets will need to travel in the pressurized, heated cargo hold in a sturdy, well-ventilated shipping crate that is large enough to allow the pet to sit, stand, turn around, and lie down and is equipped with water and some kind of absorption material. Please note that Stuttgart Airport does not have any establishments for the sale or lease of pet crates. It is always advisable to check with the airline well in advance to find out about the cost and requirements for animal transport.
When booking a hotel stay with a pet, make sure to check the hotel’s policies. There are often specific rooms and/or extra charges for pets. Some hotels may also have additional vaccination requirements.
Caring For Your Pet
It’s a good idea to register with a local veterinarian,“Tierarzt,” as soon as you bring your pet home. You can find recommendations for Stuttgart-area veterinarians here. A normal vet’s office can administer vaccinations as well as provide routine treatments and medications. Some offices also have diagnostic equipment for blood tests, X‑rays, and ultrasounds. You can recognize them by their signs: a snake wrapped around a staff inside a large V.
You should also identify your nearest animal hospital, or “Tierklinik.” These provide a full range of diagnostics and treatments for pet illness and injuries. Some may be open around the clock for emergencies. In Stuttgart the veterinarians also take turns being the emergency on-call vet. You can find out who is currently on call here.
Members of the US Military should register their pets at the Stuttgart Veterinary Treatment Facility in order to be able to access treatment there. The SVTF offers services by appointment only but they also have lots of useful information for military pet owners on their Facebook page.
Sitters, Walkers, and Groomers
There is no shortage of pet services, many of whom advertise online. There are professional kennels or dog or cat hotels which offer your pet comfortable boarding options while you are away. You can look for English-speaking pet sitters, walkers, and groomers on Pawshake or Petbacker. The Stuttgart Veterinary Treatment Facility also put together a list of recommended pet carers in the area.
The standard for good dog behavior in Germany is high. It is expected that dogs will respond to their owner’s commands and not be easily diverted or upset by other animals or children. Although training is only required for certain types of “fighting dogs,” it is very common to take dogs to some kind of school. There are many options in the Stuttgart area, including schools who offer classes you can drop your dog off for and trainers that offer obedience classes in English.
If you have time or money to spare, consider offering it to one of the local animal shelters. Just search for “Tierheim” to find one in your area and inform yourself about their needs.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being unable to continue to care for your pet, you must find it a new owner or call a Tierheim to find one with an available spot. Be aware that capacity at the shelters is limited and animals that are not adopted within a certain amount of time will be euthanized.
Community in Stuttgart
Still have questions about pets in Stuttgart? Want to connect with other pet owners? Have a look at the groups linked below.