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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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Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.