A PCS move overseas is stressful enough, but add on a pet or two, and your stress level can rise exponentially. There are several considerations and numerous steps that families must take to ensure that their pet arrives safely in Germany. For dogs and cats, this includes having a health certificate, an ISO standard 11784 or 11785 compatible microchip, and a valid rabies vaccine. More information can be found on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website, under IRegs for Animal Exports. However, it is highly recommended to be in contact with your local base veterinarian as soon as possible, due to the timeline involved with traveling overseas with pets. They are familiar with the process, can offer addition guidance, and it should take less time to complete the necessary paperwork with them than an off-base vet.
Another important detail for dog owners to consider, is the breed of their pet, as certain breeds are not allowed to be imported into Germany and some German states have their own breed restrictions. In April 2001, Germany passed a law regarding the importation of what they consider to be dangerous dog breeds. This includes dogs that are known to be aggressive, have attacked someone, or shown the inclination to attack livestock or game. Automatically included are Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bullterriers, the Bullterrier, and any dogs descended from these breeds.
This means that any mixes of the above breeds are also no longer allowed into Germany. Of course, there are those who lie and say that their Pit Bull mix is a “lab mix” or “boxer mix.” This is highly discouraged, because the consequences of shipping a banned mixed breed can be strict, ranging from shipping the dog back to the U.S. to confiscating it completely.
For those planning on importing exotic pets it is essential to have all the proper paperwork to show that you are not exporting an endangered animal from its country of origin. This will require extra research and time on the owner’s part, and again it is highly encouraged to contact your local base vet and USDA. Both organizations are an invaluable resource for military families looking to ship pets. It is important to note that AMC military chartered flights to Germany only allow cats and dogs, two pets per family on a space available basis only. Exotic pets or those over the two pet limit must be shipped commercially and are the financial responsibility of the owner.
If all goes to plan and your family arrives in Germany with your furry family member, you will need to find a new home. Maybe you will want to live on-base, which is only an option if you own two or less pets of the non-exotic variety. However, most bases and privatized housing have breed restrictions, which generally includes, but is not limited to Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bullterriers, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, and wolf hybrids. This prohibition also extends to dogs exhibiting the same types of aggressive behavior as outlined in Germany’s law. Exotic animals are also prohibited to include, but not limited to reptiles, rodents (excluding hamsters and guinea pigs), ferrets, hedgehogs, skunks, rats, raccoons, squirrels, potbellied pigs, monkeys, arachnids, or any farm animal. Regulations vary from base to base, as well as between military branches so it is vital that families research carefully and make inquiries as to any restrictions to prevent future problems with housing.
Or perhaps you would prefer an off-base house with a fenced yard or an apartment, but whatever your choice it is important to know that just like in the states, not all landlords allow pets. While Germany is an exceptionally pet friendly country, some rental houses have limits set by size/weight or by the number of pets allowed. Most landlords require rental insurance to cover any damages done and a form of pet liability insurance. The liability insurance protects you and your pet in the event your pet escapes and causes an accident.
As previously stated, Germany is a remarkably pet friendly country, as long as local customs are followed, and it is recommended to learn as much about pet ownership in Germany as possible. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are allowed in most stores, with the exception of grocery stores, and even certain restaurants. It is always advised to ask before bringing your pet in, especially if there is no sign. This open attitude towards dogs makes it easy to travel, and as long as your dog is well-behaved you should run into few problems. Germany is also covered with a plethora of hiking trails that offers amazing views and a chance to explore the countryside. So, despite the challenges that can occur while shipping your pets, if the appropriate steps are taken and your pet arrives safely in Germany, the reward of being able to travel and explore can far outshine any difficulties faced.
For more information about shipping your pets, pet ownership in Germany, and housing regulations read:
 Fact sheet. Pets. 25 August 2010. http://www.ramstein.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17033
 Fact sheet. Dangerous Dog Guidelines. 24 August 2010. http://www.ramstein.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17054
 U.S. Army Signed Pet Policy for Privatized Housing. 05 Jan. 2009. http://www.scribd.com/doc/13354407/U-S-Army-Signed-Pet-Policy-for-Privatized-Housing-Jan-09
@a big thank you to LeAnn Alix for writing this article
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