Man’s best friend: Regulations for keeping your dog in Germany

by Dr. J.M. Kiel Public Health Activity — Rheinland-Pfalz, Dog Center Europe

Dogs are popular pets and loyal companions in Germany, just as they are in the United States. American dog owners stationed in the KMC may not be aware, though, that there are very specific regulations governing how you must take care of your dog while living in Germany.

The German Animal Welfare Act protects the lives and well-being of all animals. In the U.S., animals are legally viewed as property. Here in Germany, though, people are seen as stewards of animals, and the requirements of the animal protection law reflect that attitude. This law is enforced by local Departments of Public Order and Polizei. You should know that violations of the Animal Welfare Act can result in fines up to €25,000 and prison sentences up to three years.

The following is a summary of some of the specific requirements for how to house your dog:

  • Keeping a dog in a crate is limited to a maximum of two hours total per day.
  • Dogs must have a minimum amount of floor space available to them based on their size. For any dog up to about 40 pounds, that would mean a minimum of 66 square feet.
  • If a dog is kept indoors, it must have a view of the outside. Keeping a dog in a dark room is not allowed.
  • If you keep your dog outdoors, there are very specific requirements for dog houses and ties.
  • Your dog must have at least two hours a day of contact time playing, walks, dog school with their owner or caretaker.
  • If you keep your dog penned, they must have an additional minimum of one hour per day to be allowed to exercise outside of their enclosure.
  • The use of any electrical device electric fence, bark collar, etc. is not allowed.

Besides properly housing your dog, owners also need to know that excessive barking can cause you problems. There are specific quiet hours, typically from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. daily, when barking is of special concern. In general, dog owners must ensure their dog’s barking or whining does not last more than 10 consecutive minutes or more than 30 minutes total per day.

When walking your dog, they must always be on a leash on public streets in housing areas. Elsewhere, you are responsible for keeping your dog under immediate control, and they must be put on a leash when other people approach. Violations of this requirement may be punished with fines up to €5,000.

Besides barking and housing concerns, local Departments of Public Order receive many complaints about people walking their dogs on public streets, parks and playgrounds without picking up after them when they defecate. There is a potential health risk to people, especially children, from parasites and bacteria in fecal material. Most communities have bags available in theses area for people to pick up after their dogs.

Military members who go on leave or deploy need to know that they are still legally responsible for the care of their dog while they are away. You need to be sure that the caretaker you choose to care for your dog in your absence knows the legal requirements for that care as well.

Bringing a dog into your life can be a uniquely rewarding experience. But with the joys of that relationship comes a significant commitment. Having a dog here in Germany can be a wonderful experience as you discover that dogs are welcomed in many places where they cannot go in the U.S. You should understand that these opportunities come with the expectation that you and your dog will be good citizens, following the laws of your host nation.

For more information about the regulations for keeping your dog here in Germany or other questions about their health, contact the Kaiserslautern Veterinary Treatment Facility on Pulaski Barracks at 493-4444 or 0631-3406-4444, or visit their Facebook page at