Expats who relocate their pets to Germany, or get a new pet, need to be aware of the rules governing pet ownership. The below provides an overview of the main issues pet-owners in Germany need to be aware of.
How to bring your pet to Germany
If you are planning on bringing your pet with you to Germany, you will need to plan well in advance, as the entire process can take up to six months of preparation.
Note that you are limited to bringing a maximum of five pets with you - any more and you will have to follow the requirements governing commercial pet trade.
Bringing pets to Germany from inside the EU
Owners of cats, dogs and ferrets that are relocating to Germany from inside the EU must adhere to the following requirements:
- Your pet must be immunised for rabies (with the vaccination having taken place in the last 12 months but more than 30 days before your entry into Germany).
- Your pet must bear an identifier, such as a microchip or tattoo ID.
- Your pet needs an identification document known as the EU “pet passport”, which contains details of the pet and owner, a vet confirmation of rabies vaccination and details of their microchip.
Extra requirements for pets from outside the EU
In addition to fulfilling the above requirements, pet owners from outside the EU may be required to provide the following additional documentation:
- Blood test proving efficiency of rabies vaccination (taken at least three months before entry and 30 days after immunisation).
- Certificate of health, obtained from your veterinarian.
Note that the blood test is not required if you are coming to Germany from one of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Mauritius, Malaysia, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, US.
Legislation on dangerous dogs in Germany
Germany has fairly strict legislation governing the ownership of so-called “dangerous dogs”. The following breeds (including crossbreeds) are banned from Germany and cannot therefore be brought into the country:
- Pit bull terrier
- American Staffordshire terrier
- Staffordshire bull terrier
- Bull terrier
German ban on importing puppies and kittens
Puppies and kittens may only be brought to Germany if they have been vaccinated against rabies. Due to the fact that the earliest time this vaccine can be administered is at 12 weeks of age, as well as the fact that it takes a further 21 days to develop effective immunity, puppies and kittens may only enter Germany at the age of 15 weeks at the earliest.
Bringing other types of pets to Germany
Owners of other types of pets (such as hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs) can enter Germany without any difficulty. Pet birds need to be vaccinated against Avian Influenza (AI) or they will be quarantined for at least 10 days upon arrival. You can read more about importing other types of animals on the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture's website.
Owning a pet in Germany: Rules & Regulations
Pet-owners in Germany need to abide by the following rules and regulations:
Dog tax & registration
Dogs in Germany need to be licensed. You are required to register your dog at your local citizens’ office within two weeks of arriving in Germany. This can usually be done online, but you may have to attend a short appointment. Note that you will need to re-register your dog every time you change your address.
Every dog owner is also obliged to pay a dog tax (Hundesteuer) to their local tax office. This is intended to discourage people from owning too many dogs as well as helping to fund dog-related services (e.g. dog waste bins). The exact amount of tax payable depends on your location and the number of dogs you have. Guide dogs are exempt from dog tax.
In the same way that all humans in Germany need health insurance, it’s a good idea to purchase cover for your four-legged friend as well. If your pet becomes ill or has an accident, veterinary bills can be hefty. See our Private insurance page for more details and recommended companies.
Personal liability insurance
The German civil code stipulates that if your pet harms anyone or anything, you as owner are liable. To avoid unexpected damages payments, you might want to take out some form of personal insurance that covers any damage caused by your pet.
In the federal states of Hamburg, Berlin, Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony and Thuringia this personal liability insurance is mandatory. In North Rhine-Westphalia, you are required to take out liability insurance if your pet is larger than 40cm.
Veterinarians in Germany
Most major cities in Germany will have several different veterinary surgeries (Tierkliniken) for you to choose from. Most vets (Tierärzte) will be able to speak at least basic English. It is a good idea to register your pet with a local veterinary surgery as soon as you arrive in Germany.
Travelling with your pet within Germany & Europe
Pets are allowed on most forms of public transport in Germany, although you may need to pay a (discounted) fare for them to travel with you on the train. Guide dogs are usually exempt.
When travelling with your pet within Germany or Europe, it is a good idea to carry your pet's passport with you.