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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?