In all the time we spent getting Sherlock and traveling with him through the Frankfurt airport, we never once met a Customs official. No one looked over Sherlock’s health certificate, no one even stamped our passports. They just waved us off with our luggage and our dog, and that was it. We had no idea what we were supposed to do, and everything I had researched (including the government websites) told me nothing about what to do once we arrived.
We may or may not have done this legally, but if we did, we didn’t get caught. And it’s kind of their fault for not making it clear. This is how we got Sherlock registered in Germany.
We Didn’t Do Anything
We couldn’t do anything for a long time, because like all things in Germany, you can’t do anything without first having an address and being registered with the city. We learned very early that the first step (literally for everything) was to get an address.
Want to get paid? You need an address.
Want a German phone number? You need an address.
Want to get Wi-Fi at the university? You need an address.
So we waited. In my paranoia, I took Sherlock to a vet (which was probably a good idea). The vet looked over the health certificate, verified the rabies vaccine and wrote a letter to the city. She also explained what would be required to register Sherlock with the city.
In Germany, all pets are registered and taxed yearly. Depending on the type and size of the animal, an additional test may be required of the owner. There is noticeably fewer dogs in Germany due to how expensive it is to own them (our tax was around €200). Owners are also required to carry pet insurance with up to €100,000 deductible.
With that letter, we went to our Bürgeramt and registered Sherlock. They didn’t even need the USDA health certificate. They looked at the letter, gave us a medallion and an invoice, and we were on our way. It was the easiest visit to the registration office we had.
No one has signed or looked at our USDA Health Certificate. I have still never encountered a Customs agent.
What to Expect as a Dog Owner
Fewer dogs in Germany means fewer vets and fewer pet stores. It’s harder to find quality food and products. And don’t get me started on overnight stay because that’s nearly impossible. With how much Germans go on vacation I’ve come to believe they just take their dogs with them.
Dogs can take the bus and Stadtbahn for free, but you will get the stink eye if your dog is barking, whining, or misbehaving.
Dogs can take the DB Train for a small fee (kids ticket). Dogs are technically required to wear a muzzle while on public transportation. No one does this. If your dog likes to show teeth or barks, it might be a good idea to have one handy in case someone asks you to muzzle your dog.
Most dogs are off leash in parks until the owner spots another dog. While most dogs here are usually better trained than dogs in the US, I still think this is not a good idea, since there are plenty of distractions.
Unlike the US, a lot of dogs here are not spayed/neutered.
You must get pet insurance (up to €100K). This will protect you in case your dog attacks. Most of the time, renter’s/homeowner’s insurance will cover your pet. Check your insurance policy.
Unlike in the US, children here do not come up to dogs and pet them or ask to pet them (I haven’t had anyone approach me to pet Sherlock! It used to be a common occurrence in the US).
Most of the time, dogs are welcome in stores and cafes.
While most parks and walking paths have pet waste stations, it’s a 50/50 chance that people use them. Set a good example by picking up after your pet…and watch your step.
Common Words & Phrases you will hear about dogs in Germany:
Kastriert: “Ist er/sie kastriert?” Is your dog castrated/neutered? They usually ask this to warn you when their dog is in heat, etc.
Rüde: “ist es Rüde?” Is it a male dog? This one took me forever to figure out because everyone asking me this rolled the R so hard I kept thinking they were saying “bruder” which means “brother.”
Schöner Hunde: Pretty/cute dog. Sherlock has some unique coloring that gets him some attention, so compliments are common. Use “schöner Hunde” to tell someone their dog is a looker.