So as you may have seen, MrC and I adopted a dog from our local Tierheim (animal shelter) last October. Since we had no friends (German or non German, that we knew of) who had adopted an animal from a shelter here we did a lot of googling to find answers to our many, many, many questions. Putting bits and pieces together from wherever we could find them. So whilst I can’t give you a step by step of how this works in Germany, because it won’t work the same way everywhere. What I can give you is the benefit of our experience, based on adopting an older dog (not a puppy) from Ludwigsburg Tierheim.
Do not expect the process to be short. We thought, more than once, maybe they just don’t want us to adopt him? There was no encouragement as such, it was down to us to follow up and chase the Tierheim, not the other way around. When we visited our local vet, he joked that it’s harder to adopt a dog from a Tierheim than a child, and don’t we all know that all the funniest jokes are based on the truth.
Get to know the Tierheim. They want to get to know you too. They were incredibly busy, especially on Saturdays, phone callers didn’t get a whole lot of information out of them because they simply did not have time. Anyone can volunteer as a dog walker (maybe a cat stroker too) but you do have to attend a 3-hour class first, don’t let that put you off it’s easy to get through and is a good confidence booster. Even younger kids (over 12) can volunteer, pretty perfect for a wannabe vet or an animal lover without a pet.
Visit early and/or in the week if you can. Like I said the Tierheim gets very busy. The queue for reception was constantly snaked around the room on Saturdays, patience is required.
Speaking German really helped. Nothing was in English, and it was commented on positively that we spoke German, so at least having a German speaker with you is probably a good idea. I also read a lot of stories of Americans (which we aren’t but to an untrained ear I suppose could be) being looked down on and not wanted as adopters, possibly due to previous experiences of pets being abandoned by military personnel. As a foreigner I didn’t feel that I was treated any differently, I wasn’t asked how long I’ve lived here or how long I intended to stay.
Do your research. Most Tierheim will have an online presence, this does not mean that their webpage will be up to date but it will give you an idea of what kind of animals they have and where they are sourced. Germany does not have a lot of strays, consequently a number of dogs (and cats) are transported in from Eastern Europe and Spain, where they are many. You can also approach organisations that do this directly, they usually speak decent English.
Costs will vary. For a house dog (not a guard or working dog) you can expect to pay 200-400 euro and it can depend on how long the dog has been there, medical care received, pedigree etc. Our boy came fully vaccinated, microchipped and with an EU passport, I’m not sure every dog will have a passport.
Be prepared. Get your basics sorted. The Tierheim offered to lend us a lead, collar and food bowls, we took them up on the collar and simply returned it once we had sourced him an alternative. The rest you should have in place, google dog adoption must haves and you will get plenty of ideas.
Ask your questions. German culture is reliant upon asking ‘the right’ question, there is little information offered besides answers, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having to interrogate people in everyday situations, but it is simply ‘the way it is’. I have a feeling that the Tierheim thought that we were a little insane when we pulled out our list of questions, for us it was necessary. Always ask.
Dog insurance. Because well, this is Germany. Having a liability policy was compulsory before taking him home. Medical insurance though doesn’t seem big here.
Landlord Approved. If you are living in rented accommodation you must get it in writing that you have permission to have a dog living at your place. Our lease says ‘nach Vereinbarung’ so ‘by arrangement’, it was also on the property listing for our flat (our landlord allows small animals only) and the Tierheim had to see it.
Home Inspection. We got very stressed about this, probably unnecessarily, but it was our last hurdle and we desperately wanted to pass. We were actually visited by our prospective dogs’ trainer so basically she just checked our place for safety, with our dog in mind. She also gave us some great tips about training and living with him, we really picked her brain and I’m so grateful that she was so nice in the face of our newbie enthusiasm.
Dog tax. When we went to register our dog with the city for dog tax, as you are legally obliged to do, we found out that for the first year, as a rescue dog, he is exempt, yes free dog tax for one full year. Whilst I can’t be sure that all councils will do the same, maybe yours does too? We also had a full 30 days in which to register him at the town hall.
It took us one month, from seeing a dog on the website to having that same dog curled up on our feet at home. It dragged and then it flew. We wouldn’t be without him and he’s settling into the family as well as we could have hoped.