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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

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. 

Cost of living: 45 ways to save money in Austria

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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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

Retiring to Austria to spend time in fresh alpine air is a dream for many people, but who is actually eligible to retire to the Alpine Republic? Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

People from all over the world can retire to Austria, but unlike some other European countries, Austria does not have a residence permit tailored to retirees.

This means anyone wanting to retire to Austria has to go through the standard immigration channels, with different rules for EU and non-EU citizens.

Here’s what you need to know about retirement in Austria and who is eligible to retire in the Alpine Republic.

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as an EU citizen?

The process for citizens from EU and EEA countries to retire in Austria is relatively simple due to freedom of movement across the bloc.

There are a few rules though.

To stay in the Austria for longer than three months, retirees will need to be able to support themselves financially (e.g. through a pension) and have sufficient health insurance.

When it comes to accessing a pension from another EU member state, this is typically taken care of by an insurance provider in Austria who will deal with the approval process between the states. Access to public healthcare in Austria is also available to all EU/EEA citizens.

Currently the pension age in Austria is 60 for women and 65 for men. More information about pensions in Austria can be found on the European Commission website.

FOR MEMBERS: Five reasons to retire in Austria

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as a non-EU citizen?

The most popular visa route for non-EU retirees hoping to live out their golden years in the Austrian Alps or the grandeur of Vienna is to apply for a settlement permit

This is issued to people that do not intend to work in Austria and is referred to as “except gainful employment” (Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit) by Austrian immigration.

To qualify for the settlement permit, applicants must prove they have sufficient funds, comprehensive health insurance and a place to live.

Proof of sufficient funds means applicants must have a regular monthly income from a pension, profits from enterprises abroad, income from assets, savings or company shares. 

The minimum amount is €1,030.49 for a single person, or €1,625.71 for married couples or those in a partnership. 

READ ALSO: Baking away solitude: Vienna cafe hopes to unite world’s grandmas

Third-country nationals also have to provide evidence of basic German language skills at Level A1, in line with the Common European Framework of References for Languages. The diploma must be no older than one year when submitted with the application.

However, the application process will be entirely in German so for people that don’t have advanced German language skills, it’s best to hire an English-speaking immigration lawyer.

Additionally, Austria has a social security agreement with several non-EU states, including the UK, Canada and the USA. This allows some people to access their pension directly from Austria, depending on the agreement.

Again, it can be useful to find an English-speaking advisor to help with the bureaucratic part of accessing a pension in Austria if you don’t have strong German language skills.

After five years of living in Austria with a settlement permit, visa holders can then apply for permanent residence.

Want information on pensions? Then check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Useful vocabulary

Retirement – Ruhestand

Pension – Rente

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Health insurance – Krankenkasse

Settlement permit – Niederlassungsbewilligung

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