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EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about owning a pet in Austria

There are many joys of having dogs or cats in Austria, an extremely pet-friendly country, but there are also several obligations.

A dog and a cat sit next to each other in a meadow.
Austria is one of the more pet friendly countries in the world, although there are many rules to follow. Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash.

A country of just under 9 million people, Austria has an impressive 1.39 million private households with pets, primarily cats and dogs, according to Statistik Austria. 

Austria is also very pet-friendly, with dogs and cats welcome to most places, including public transportation and bars and restaurants.

While children could be barred entry to some of those establishments, including hotels, there are several places where dogs are not only welcome but the primary target audience, with some hotels offering special packages, with walks and pet sitting, for the furry ones.

READ MORE: Eight signs you’ve settled into life in Austria

Even offices can be very pet-friendly, and it’s not uncommon for people to take their dogs to work. 

However, owning pets in Austria is not so simple, especially if that pet is a dog, and there are several regulations that owners need to follow.

Here are some of the most important things you need to know about owning a pet in Austria.

Dogs need to be registered

When reaching three months old, all dogs need to be registered by their owners with the responsible authority in Austria. If they haven’t already, by the kennel or breeder, they will receive a chip with the owner’s contact information and an identification number for the animal.

This is usually done quickly at a veterinarian clinic, where they can also get an EU pet passport which shows they had the mandatory rabies vaccination.

There is a recommendation for cats to also be chipped, but this is only mandatory in case of animals that will be used for breeding. 

READ MORE: Seven weird things about life in Austria you need to get used to

There is a tax on dogs

Dog owners will also have to pay a yearly tax for their dogs, depending on the municipality. In Vienna, the tax is €72 for the first dog, with prices rising for those who have more than one dog.

However, there are a few exemptions to the tax, such as for guide dogs and specific discounts, including for low-income people. 

Compulsory insurance

Dogs also need to be insured for liabilities of at least €725,000. This ensures the coverage of possible personal injury and property damage by the dog, so it’s different from pet health insurance – which is not mandatory to have.

Many house insurers will also add a dog to the policy for a very low price, if for a cost at all. 

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Rules against animal cruelty

Austria takes the care of house animals very seriously, and the rules can differ a lot even from standard practices in other countries. For example, it is forbidden to keep a dog, even temporarily, chained. The only exception is the short-term binding outside of a shop while the owner is shopping. 

Other than that, all collars that cause pain (shock or choke collars, for example) are forbidden. This is taken very seriously – I have been asked if the GPS tracker my dog has on his collar was a shock device by a very suspicious dog owner. 

Any interventions that don’t serve diagnostic purposes are also prohibited, particularly the cropping of tails and ears and the removal of claws or teeth. 

Rules to ensure the quality of life

Similarly, Austria intervenes quite a bit to ensure the pets’ quality of life. There are minimum requirements for dogs, including the fact that dogs need to run and exercise at least once a day in a manner that meets the animal’s need for movement.

Dogs also need to be taken outdoors several times a day, have social contact with people at least twice a day, have water available at all times and be provided with suitable food.

Muzzles are also standard for dogs here and even mandatory in some cases (such as in public transportation or busy areas). Dogs need to be accustomed to them, and the muzzle needs to fit correctly, allowing it to pant and be comfortable. 

Austrians are known for their love of nature, the spirit of walking in forests, and trekking, which is not different for their dogs. It’s common to go to the dog parks, where they can be off-leash, and to woods and parks on the outskirts of cities so that the dogs can run free.

Cat owners need to ensure that windows and balconies have protective devices, and cats regularly allowed outdoors must be neutered. They also need to have water at all times and proper feeding. 

READ MORE: Six ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Austria

Vienna’s dog course

Vienna has a particular demand for new dog owners, those who haven’t had a dog in the last two years and are now looking to register an animal.

They need to show proof of attendance to a Canine Expertise course, Hunde-Sachkunde. From 2019, evidence of attendance in the basic knowledge on dog keeping course lasting at least four hours is mandatory in the capital. 

“Listed” dogs

Austria, and Vienna in particular, has a list of “dangerous” breeds. The listed dogs (listenhunde) are of breeds that were originally created as “fighting dogs” and therefore are seen as more aggressive. Therefore, there are special regulations for these breeds and mixes, including pitbulls, rottweilers, dogo argentinos and others

The Listenhunde need to wear a muzzle and leash in public spaces in Vienna, except for fenced dog parks. People walking with an animal of this breed have an alcohol limit and could be fined € 1,000 if over it.

Dogs and owners also need to pass an examination, the Hundeführschein.

Some common practices

Even though it’s not mandatory, it is very common for owners to take their puppies or new dogs to dog schools, the Hundeschule. They help owners communicate with their animals and bring valuable socialising experiences for the puppies. 

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Dogs are welcome in most places, but not inside supermarkets. This is why it’s not unusual to see them attached to a hook by the wall waiting for owners to shop. Despite how common the practice is, there have been cases of dogs being robbed while leashed at a storefront.

People take the education of their dogs very seriously here, and you will see kids from an early age approaching dogs with care. It’s not considered polite to pet dogs without asking their owner (a simple “darf ich streicheln?” will do), and definitely don’t feed or give treats to pets that aren’t yours. 

Vocabulary and phrases

Darf ich es streicheln? – Can I pat/pet it?

Leckerli – treats

Sind Hunde hier erlaubt? – Are dogs allowed here?

Leine und Maulkorb – leash and muzzle

Ist das ein Männchen oder ein Weibchen? –  Is this a male or female?

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Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.