Skip to Main Content

What to Know About Owning a Pet If You’re PCS-ing to Germany

Bryan Harris with his dogs

For most pet owners, your pet is part of your family.  When you move, you wouldn’t leave a family member behind. If you are getting ready to PCS to Germany, we’re here to help you learn the rules for bringing your companion with you.

The European Union (EU) has strict regulations when it comes to transporting animals from outside the EU.  These rules include the number of animals allowed per person, the types of animals allowed, and the need for complete health records, to name a few.  The health records are the most important item for your pet, as incorrect documentation will lead to your pet being quarantined at your expense to confirm they are safe to enter the country. You can use the USDA’s website to check for quarantine rules in individual countries.

Whether you have conventional pets or exotic ones, it is best to check with your housing office for specific rules and requirements. On-base government housing, in particular, has its own set of restrictions and regulations. Dog lovers should take this suggestion seriously as most EU countries, including Germany, England, and Spain, have “dangerous dog” laws.  These laws prohibit bringing in or buying certain breeds, such as Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and American Staffordshire Terriers.  Even if the country you are moving to does not prohibit these breeds, there may be rules restricting them in your housing situation.

Despite possible pet regulations of the host country, there are many positive aspects about having a pet in Europe.  For example, Germany, where Service Credit Union has over a dozen branches on military bases, is a very dog-friendly country.  Whether you are in the country or in the city, you will see a fair number of dogs walking with their owner.  Other than in supermarkets and some other shops, it is not uncommon to see a dog curled up next to its owner or under the table at a restaurant or café.  Public transportation is also pet friendly; however, you must keep your dog on a short leash and may have to buy them a ticket — usually not at full price.  As long as your dog is well behaved, people will go about their business without a second glance.

Caring for your pet can be a relatively easy task.  Germany, like most EU countries, is pet-friendly so you do not have to look too far to find a vet.  Once you find a vet, you may consider registering your pet with them as it makes things easier should an emergency arise.  Having your pet’s information on file alleviates the paperwork when you go in for checkups.  Remember, you are typically expected to pay immediately after the treatment.  It is best to make sure your vet of choice accepts credit cards or you will need to bring enough cash to cover the appointment. 

Most of us have heard of people getting pet insurance and some may laugh at the notion.  This pet insurance is for a whole different matter.  This is a legal requirement in Germany in case the pet causes property damage or an accident.  Just like auto insurance covers you in case of a car crash, pet insurance covers you in case of a liability.

When taking your dog for a walk, dogs must be kept on a leash in neighborhoods and public areas.  Dogs and other animals like to mark their territory and tend to use the toilet at the most inopportune time.  Regardless of when this occurs, you are required to scoop it up and dispose of it properly.  Failure to do this can bring you a large fine.

Not only are you required to restrain your dog while walking, but Germany also requires your dog to be restrained in the back of your car.  Small dogs can be restrained by using a harness with belts and two tie-ins while for larger dogs, it is recommended that they travel in a crate along with a partition to reduce damage and injury in case of a crash.

If you do not bring a pet with you and would like to adopt or buy a pet once you are settled, you may run into some issues or more steps than you think necessary.  As the saying goes, “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” Americans, especially in Germany, have a not-so-good reputation as many animals are abandoned when their owners PCS or move to another area.  Some animal shelters will not adopt Americans for this reason.  If they do adapt to you, you may have to jump through a lot of hoops before your new family member can join you.

When traveling, like us, your dog or cat needs an EU Pet Passport.  This passport lists the animal’s current vaccinations and information and allows your pet easy entry, exit and transit through EU countries. In addition to the passport, the animals must have an EU or ISO readable microchip.

Even though there are a lot of to-dos to have your pets with you in Europe, they are still worth the time and effort to make you and them happy!