Expanding the family

Adding to your family is something that is taken very seriously in Germany. Do you have enough time, space, money and energy? Have you researched classes, schools and medical facilities? Are you ready to share your food, bed and sofa space? Even with the best laid plans you’ll need to have a healthy dose of patience before you hear the patter of hairy feet on your stairs. Animal adoption in Germany can be a long process, but one that I very much recommend.

43% of German households have a pet, and whilst cats are slightly more popular than dogs, perhaps partly down to being a nation of apartment dwellers, but also that having a dog comes with additional responsibilities like micro chipping, dog taxes and classes in some cases. Our vet joked that it is harder to adopt a dog than it is a child in Germany, and don’t we all know that the best jokes are based on the truth? The compulsory home visit is a particularly nervous time for any potential adopter which another German Way writer wrote about in Furry Love Parts 1 & 2.

Whilst pets are popular with the German population, strays are very rare. Don’t expect Tierheim (animal shelters) to be packed to the rafters with animals looking for homes, the stray rate is so low that many German organisations transport animals from Spain and Eastern Europe where there are sadly many street dogs and animal shelters where animals have a limited time before they are euthanised. Germany does not euthanise healthy animals.

Most Tierheim are charitable organisations which rely on donations for their running costs and mostly volunteers for animal care, training and upkeep. If you are an animal lover who can’t have a pet at home you can volunteer to play with indoor animals like cats and rabbits as well as walk the dogs. The Tierheim require some training to be undertaken if you want to walk the dogs, just a couple of hours to make sure you know what you are doing and that you’re trustworthy enough to take one of their charges off the premises.

Back to the specifics of dog adoption (and ownership) though. If you wish to take a dog out for a walk to get to know him (or her) one on one you will have to have some valid ID. Once you have found your preferred pooch, taken him for a walk, to check the feeling is mutual, you can express your interest in adopting him. The interest form, as with most forms in Germany, is extensive, ours was four pages and required a little googling to complete properly, even with a good level of German between us. Previous pet ownership, jobs, working hours and experience with animals were extensively covered.

What the Tierheim needed from us was proof that we –
– Were allowed a pet in our current apartment, our lease states we are allowed a small animal.
– Had passed a home assessment, our flat was deemed suitable for our chosen pup and any changes that needed to be made would be made.
– Had an insurance policy in place for liability in case pup caused an accident by running into the road, for example.
Before we could officially sign (and pay) for him and take him home with us.

Our guy six months after being adopted – Photo credit Alie C

The process itself is straight forward, but don’t expect to take your new fur ball home quickly. My husband and I visited the Tierheim four or five times before being booked in for a home visit, it was definitely a case of us pushing the Tierheim, and there were a few times we considered that maybe they didn’t want us to adopt him. After talking to other animal adopters though we have realised that this is quite normal, you have to prove you want the animal enough and that you are a suitable pet owner, with so few animals needing homes they can be picky about who they approve.

I’m just glad they approved us, finally.