Thursday Column - Croatia Lifestyle 2: Dogs and Other Pets in Croatia
The most important question for dog owners thinking of moving to Croatia, or taking their dog with them on holiday, is “can they go back to England without having to be quarantined?” The answer is now yes as Croatia joined the pet passport scheme last year. Look at the Defra website – http://www.defra.gov.uk/ - for all the details of what you need to do. Suffice to say that Croatian vets seem well geared up to cope with the scheme and have been routinely inoculating against rabies and other diseases for a number of years. You do need to plan in advance though, to meet the various time limits, but if you get confused by all the rules, the telephone helpline, listed on the website, is very good. Getting your dog into Croatia involves less paperwork (usually none). The Germans have been driving to Croatia with their dogs for years.
Whether your dog will enjoy Croatia is another question. Is it dog friendly? The answer is yes and no. Unsurprisingly, Croatians aren’t as soppy about their dogs as we are. Outside the main cities, dogs in the house is a rarity and you’ll see most of them tied up on fairly long chains outside the house. Presumably this is for security reasons but since they can only get at you within the limits of the length of the chain, this function is of limited use. There are normally a number of strays about, particularly in the spring, which can be a nuisance, but they tend to get rounded up before the start of the tourist season. This is one good reason for making sure your dog can’t get out on its own. The other good reason, which applies to cats as well, is that many small holders leave poison about to ward off mice, rats and other pests and we’ve heard of a few incidents of pet poisoning.
Increasingly, particularly in the big cities such as Zagreb, dogs are kept as pets, in similar style to the UK, and you’ll see an increasing number of pedigrees around. This comes with other problems as Croatia is not yet a nation of pooper scoopers so the parks and green spaces can be a bit of a nightmare in densely built areas. So far, in our three years here, we’ve seen nobody but us clean up after their dog though there are regulations that say you should.
Walks? Plenty of them but mostly along roads and beaches. In the season, dogs on beaches tends to be frowned upon so be prepared to get challenged. Similarly, I don’t think the Croatian’s are used to seeing too many well trained dogs, and, more often, have experiences of being frightened by strays or guard dogs, so if they see your dog off the lead, they may either take avoiding action or suggest you put the lead on. Nice long rural walks are few and far between though I’ve found a couple of mini woods near us, which are lovely and cool in the heat of the summer. We’ve also discovered a 45 minute trail around the olive groves nearby but I’m not giving that one away on the net as it’s one of the most peaceful spots we know and has beautiful views over the Adriatic. There are also the mountain hikes, upwards from the coast, but, since the paths have all been adapted to ensure that rescue teams can use them, they are covered in large jagged stones which can be a bit rough on paws.
Dog friendly hotels and restaurants? It is rare to see dogs in restaurants but we have managed to get into most places with Rosie, our Springer Spaniel. It’s more difficult in the towns than the villages and it seems that there are generally rules against it. If we ask in a new place, the answer is generally no if we want to sit inside, although the owner makes exceptions if he wants to. Now, Rosie just tends to slip discretely under the table and once they see she is no problem they can turn a blind eye. Of course, in the warmer months, outside eating is the norm so there’s no debate. We’ve rarely had a problem with hotels though there are some that say no. Most people offering apartments will make a personal judgement based on potential income versus possible dog damage.
Food, supplies and accessories? It’s not really a problem to find pet food in the main supermarkets though there are relatively fewer pet shops than in the UK. If you want specialist food such as Eukanuba, you’ll normally have to go to the nearest main town like Split.
Vets? We’ve been very impressed by the standard of veterinary care in Croatia and were offered the vet’s mobile phone number on our first routine visit. It’s also a lot cheaper than in the UK.
Kennels? We haven’t found any yet and this may be a good opportunity for an ex pat niche business. Families tend to stay together in Croatia and there always seems to be someone to feed their dogs if they go away. We rely on friends.
If you’re soft on cats, your heart strings will be tugged by the breeding rate of strays that congregate around the bins. Cats are kept, occasionally, as pets but the strays don’t get an awful lot of sympathy from the locals. We know, from friends, that cat flaps have yet to be made widely available which is an indication of how cats are viewed. If you’re bringing a cat with you, the biggest problem will be trying to keep it away from any poison that’s left out, while it adapts to its new territory.
Exotic birds in small cages is another source of angst for animal lovers, though within the confines of their space, they tend to be well looked after.
If you leave your door open in the autumn, in rural areas, the lovely brown harvest mice will find you. They may be lovely to look at but they’re a nightmare to find and leave a trail of mini destruction behind them, so try and get them out humanely before they breed.
Our dog Rosie loves it here and has left her mark around Croatia. If she was to complain, I’d suspect it would be about the heat in August. However she loves to swim and has realised that a quick dunk in the water, even in November, is the fastest way to cool down after a run around. In this photo you can see her multi tasking – having a snack, catching up on the news and empathising with the Croatians about the ex pat invasion.