When we first moved to Berlin, I was in wonder at everything this new world had to offer. The free museums, the quirkiness, the street food! But there was one notable exception to our happiness. We had left behind a cat and our flat just didn't feel like home without a furry friend.
After moping around and skyping the cat from across an ocean (yes - really), we came to the decision to add to our household with its first German member, a rabbit.
Never one for pet shops or breeders, my first step was finding an animal shelter. But before that I needed to find the word for animal shelter. A little research provided us the answer, Tierheim.
Here is everything you need to know if you want to adopt a pet in Germany.
German Animal Shelters
Most major cities have a Tierheim which also functions as a Tierschutzverein (animal protection union). This means they not only offer care for common domestic pets like cats and dogs, but provide a shelter for all animals in need, periodically carrying for anything from monkeys to pigs.
Tierheims are the ideal place to adopt a pet, but German animal shelters also provide services for lost and found pets, pet sitters, vaccinations, emergency room for livestock and even pet cemeteries.
They can also be a lovely place to take a stroll. Berlin's Tierheim was even the setting for the futuristic film Aeon Flux.
Opened in 2001, the filmmakers were so impressed by the site's modern design and the work of architect Dietrich Bangert that they helped fund raise for the shelter.
Berlin is served by one main adoption center located outside of the city. Not the easiest journey with multiple transfers, we stepped off the bus in what looked like the middle of nowhere - aka the German countryside.
Following basic road signs, we located the massive modern complex. All giant hexagonal cement structure and sprawling gravel walkways, we found our way to the "Bugs Bunny" house. Curious faces stared up at us behind pristine glass cases and employees politely ignored us (German customer service) until we approached them with questions.
How to Adopt a Pet in Germany
The process for adoption is fairly simple:
- Show Up at a Tierheim
- Fill-out paperwork (basic contact information, bring ID and Anmeldung)
- Pay the adoption fee at the central office (In Berlin, this is up to €205 for dogs, €65-85 for cats, €20 for rabbits and between €5-25 for small animals. These fees cover the care, vaccinations, microchipping and spay/neuter).
- Observe the animals and read their information (displayed on the front of the case)
- Decide which animal is joining your household and take them home (with help from the staff) in a carrier/with equipment you provide
Not all animals on display will be available. For example, some animals will be waiting to be spayed or neutered and will only be available afterwards.
What to think about Before Adopting a Pet
Adopting a rabbit was an easy, same-day process for us. Herr Schmidt, beloved bunny, is part of the family.
But before adopting a pet you should give it careful consideration. Taking an animal into your home is a serious commitment, one that may be hard to commit to if you are in transit or only in Germany for a few years.
However, pets adopted in Germany come with a pet passport and microchip so they are ready to accompany you no matter where you go. (In case you were worrying about our cat, we finally settled down in a permanent flat and she made the long journey from the West Coast of the USA and now lives with us in Berlin).
Find a Tierheim in your area with our list of German Animal Shelters. If you are ever in need of emergency care, you can find vet services by calling 030-11880. For human emergencies, refer to our info on Safety in Germany.