A guide to moving to Germany with your pets | Expatica
Home Living in Germany Family & Pets Bringing your pet to Germany
Last update on February 19, 2021

If you plan on moving to Germany with pets, there are certain rules relating to importing them into the country.

Pets, it would seem, have a good life in Germany. They regularly turn up (with their owners) for business meetings. Dishes of water often appear at even the most expensive restaurants. Small areas are sometimes available for them in shops when they visit with their owners.

However, while pets are welcome in Germany, you must adhere to certain strict German rules relating to your pet’s relocation. Thankfully, our guide to bringing your pet to Germany provides information on the following:

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Transporting your pet to Germany

One of the first things you must arrange is how your pet will enter the country. This will largely depend on where you’re relocating from. Within Europe, you may be able to drive to your new home. However, many expats will be arriving by public transport or airplane.

Pets can also travel on German public transport, usually for free. Otherwise, you can buy a train ticket so they can travel with you at about half the normal fare. In some cases, they also seem to have little trouble flying with you on planes. Notify the airline that you would like to be accompanied by your pet when you book the flight.

Be aware that no more than five pet dogs, cats, and ferrets can be imported into Germany for non-commercial purposes.

Airline pet container requirements

The airline normally insists you acquire a special traveling container for the animal. The container must have ventilation and room for movement. Label your pet’s kennel carefully and prominently so that it won’t get lost during transit. Ensure that your pet has adequate food and water for the journey.

A woman and her dog waiting for a train in Berlin

The rules regarding approved types of containers for cats, dogs, ferrets, and birds flying in the cabin and as cargo were created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). You should read the IATA requirements before traveling with your pet.

Pets in the cabin

On flights of less than 10 hours, many airlines allow small cats or dogs in the cabin. Generally, the airline only allows one pet per passenger and a maximum of two pets per cabin; reconfirm this at least 48 hours in advance. The container for the pet must fit under the seat in front of you and must have a waterproof bottom and adequate ventilation. The Sherpa, Bergan, and SturdiBag pet carriers are all airline compliant as long as the carrier is the proper size.

Vaccinations for pets in Germany

If you want to bring a cat or a dog into Germany, start organizing early; there is quite a lot of paperwork necessary. If all the documents are not fully completed the animal could be quarantined.

Vaccinate your pet for rabies before departing for Germany. If you wish to enter the country with your pet, German officials require proof that your cat or dog is vaccinated at least 21 days before the trip. As all pets must be vaccinated before entering the EU, there is a ban on bringing cats and dogs less than 15 weeks old into Germany. See the conditions as defined by the EU.

Pets entering Germany from a country with a high incidence of rabies must have a Blood Titer Test one month after vaccination and three months prior to departure. Your pet will also need a visible identification tattoo or a microchip in order to travel to Germany. See which countries are low or high risk.

EU pet passports

European Union pet owners are now required to have pet passports when traveling with their animals. The passports include the pet’s microchip or tattoo number for identification. It also includes other data such as records of vaccinations and clinical examinations.

One aim of the European Pet Travel Scheme, which covers cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, and rodents, is to provide proof that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies, with the passport also setting out details of the pet’s tick and tapeworm treatment. When traveling, the pet owner must ensure that the rabies vaccination in the passport is valid or else renew the pet’s vaccination.

EU pet passports are available from a veterinary practitioner. However, the practitioner must be authorized for this purpose by the competent authorities.

The EU Pet Passport contains the following information:

  • Name and address of animal owner
  • Description of the animal (breed, sex, age, color)
  • Number of microchip
  • Date of the rabies vaccination, period of validity of the vaccination, type of vaccine, name of manufacturer and production number
  • Address and signature of the veterinarian.

The accompanying person must provide a declaration in writing stating that the animal’s movement is not intended for sale or a change of hands. Read more about German regulations for bringing a pet to Germany.

Pet insurance in Germany and other important information

There are a few things you’ll need to know if you’re planning to relocate to Germany with your pet. One of the first things you’ll need to consider is taking out an insurance policy. Thankfully, there are plenty of expat-friendly German insurance companies offering pet coverage. These include:

Once you arrive in Germany, you must obtain the landlord’s permission before keeping a pet in rented premises. Search for accommodation that allows pets: Haustiere Erlaubt (pets allowed).

Dogs must have a license in Germany, usually for an annual fee. Registration is possible at the local Rathaus or communal office in most cities. In some places, you can avoid one year of fees by taking a course to get a dog license – Hundeführeschein – which involves an exam on your rights and duties as a pet owner. Cats don’t require a license.

Good pet behavior in Germany

Dogs have to be kept on a leash in certain areas, such as public parks and buildings or on public transport. They cannot enter playgrounds or cemeteries. The rules differ between cities.

A dog playing on a beach in Hamburg

You should also keep a plastic bag with you when on excursions with your dog. Owners must ensure that the animal does not foul the pavement. In some cities, you could face a fine.

Despite the apparent ease with which pets move around Germany, there are certain places, such as butchers, grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, private buildings or children’s playgrounds, where dogs are not necessarily welcome or they are not allowed to go to the bathroom. When this is the case you will see a sign with a drawing of a dog and the words ‘Wir muessen leider draussen warten‘ (unfortunately, we have to wait outside), or other written requests of the premises’ owners. However, some places provide facilities for your dog to be left outside, for example, supermarkets generally provide bowls of water and places to tie your dog.

Generally, as a dog owner, you must ensure that your pet does not endanger anyone or cause any damage to property. Indeed, because pet owners in Germany are legally responsible for the animal and its behavior, it is advisable to arrange a special personal liability policy for pet ownership.

Germany’s tough dog laws

The launch of the EU pet travel plan has coincided with moves towards tighter restrictions on pets in many EU nations.

Laws have been introduced that mean certain breeds of dog are not allowed to be brought into Germany including: bull terriers, pit-bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire bull terriers or any crossbreeds of these dogs.

All German cities have various restrictions on the use of leads when taking dogs in public places. But Berlin’s city assembly passed a tough law in 2013 for dog owners in the German capital, which imposes specific restrictions on leads and requires chips to be implanted behind the animal’s ear.

The aim of the chip is to ensure that animals cannot simply be abandoned. The new law means current dog owners have five years to make arrangements for the chip, which has to be implanted by a veterinary surgeon.

At the same time, the new law also requires dog owners to arrange personal liability insurance cover. This applies to all newly purchased dogs. Existing owners will have about five years to sign up for insurance cover.

In future, the lead can be two metres long if the dog is in more open areas such as in parks, forests or sports grounds. However, when the dog is in more crowded areas such as railway stations, department stores, on public transport or in a demonstration or festival, the dog will have to be on a one-metre lead.

The new Berlin law additionally reinforces strict rules on so-called fighting dogs with the owners of 10 particular breeds, including bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers. This will require the dogs to wear a muzzle outside the home and in general to be on a lead.