The Best and Worst Countries for Dogs

If you’re considering emigration and want to bring Fido along with you, it’s best to do a little research on just how dog-friendly a country is before you go and settle down. While some countries are known for their dog-loving culture and communities, others view dogs in a much different light.

It's important to consider both the culture and the government laws with regard to animals. For example, while Saudi Arabia doesn't have a bit of a problem with animal cruelty like Japan does (where they legally kill animals every day), the country is simply not fond of either dogs or cats, and you may not even be allowed to show them in public space (even on the streets).

For anyone looking to move to another country with their pets, here are the best and worst countries for dogs based on each country's current laws, culture, and statistics.

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The 6 Best Countries for Dogs

Austria Among The 6 Best Countries for Dogs

What Makes a Country “Best” for Dogs?

When compiling a list of the “best” countries for dogs and dog lovers to relocate to, we took a few factors into consideration. Firstly, we considered statistics from World Animal Protection International – these statistics provide information on which countries have the best standards of care for animals. We've also considered news articles, tourist guides, and ex-pat accounts and noted local practices with regard to animal care.

It’s important to note that while the countries listed below have a great reputation for the treatment of their dogs, this does not mean that all nationals from these countries exemplify these standards. If you are considering relocating to one of these countries with your dog, always do your due diligence. Research the particular area you will be traveling to, the accommodations that you are considering, and the individuals you will be entrusted with the care of your dog.

1. Austria

Austria is easily one of the top countries in the world when it comes to fighting animal cruelty and enacting laws that protect pets, and it’s a gorgeous place to live as well. Before the rest of the developed world started catching up years ago, Austria had already enacted very strict animal rights laws with violators facing huge fines and even jail time. They've also been on top of different animal-related scams and banned online ads for selling pets.

In Austria, it's also illegal to sell animals in pet stores, forceful training methods are prohibited (that means shock collars and invisible fences are also out), and to top it all off, Austria welcomes dogs just about anywhere you can think to take them. For any dog lovers looking to emigrate, Austria is one of the best countries for dogs and owners.

2. Switzerland

In Switzerland, you must first demonstrate your ability to become a good dog owner before you're allowed to bring a new pup home. Aspiring pet owners must first complete a course to exemplify their understanding of the skills needed to own a dog and what goes into proper care for a dog. Not only that, but they must also take a written and practical test before being permitted a dog!

When it comes to taking your dog out in public with you in Switzerland, it’s not a problem at all—you can even take your pooch on the bus with you. Switzerland also upholds strong laws against punitive training techniques, and they require all dog owners to carry pet insurance.

3. Germany

Germany is very dog-friendly, but they do discriminate against certain breeds and have regulations banning these breeds. The law specifies three categories for how “dangerous” a dog is, with Category I listing the most dangerous breeds, such as Bully breeds, Mastiffs, and other large dogs with a history of fighting. These dogs cannot be imported, sold, or bred in Germany. So if you own or decide to adopt one of the more commonly banned breeds, apparently, you’re just not welcome.

That said, Germany has an incredible level of hygiene and health standards for animal shelters where dogs receive ongoing care and training; euthanizing is avoided. The Germans care so much that they even placed a Christmas pet adoption ban to discourage adopting dogs for gifting. We also love that when in Germany, you’re free to take your pup with you just about anywhere because laws discourage pet owners from leaving their dogs at home alone for too long.

4. Hungary

Hungary may not be the first country you think of when you consider canine welfare, but actually, Hungarians view their dogs to be an important part of the family. Local cafes and restaurants allow dogs to enter, and rules are even in place to ensure that every dog gets a minimum required amount of exercise every day.

They have recently made it illegal to keep dogs on chains in Hungary, and we also love that Hungary has programs in place to make sure that all families can afford to have their dogs spayed and neutered. Finally, what also makes Hungary one of the best countries for dogs is that microchipping is a must, and tail and ear docking is strictly prohibited in this country.

5. France

France is one of the best places for relocating families with dogs. In addition to the gorgeous countryside homes that almost always have a dog napping on the porch, major French cities are also becoming well-known for their canine-friendly atmosphere. Many local shops, cafes, and restaurants welcome dogs and have dogs of their own sitting behind the counter.

Because the French were previously the least likely to clean up after their dogs, the problem got out of hand, and now France is becoming one of the most proactive countries in terms of keeping their streets clean by providing tons of free pickup stations all over the country with poop bags for dog owners to clean up those untimely accidents.

6. United Kingdom

It’s no surprise that the United Kingdom makes the list of countries that are best for dog lovers to relocate to. With a reputation as one of the largest dog-loving communities culturally (even the Queen has dogs), much of the country permits dogs to enter local parks, stores, hotels, and museums. The government is looking to ban shock collars and make animal cruelty sentences more severe for perpetrators, giving up to five years in prison for anyone abusing animals.

Dog parents in the U.K. are allowed to take their dogs on the London Underground with them, provided the pets are well-behaved. There are few housing regulations that prohibit dogs from living in certain communities, and so long as dogs are kept leashed, they are generally welcome.

The 6 Worst Countries for Dogs

Japan is Among The 6 Worst Countries for Dogs

What Makes a Country “Worst” for Dogs?

When considering which countries are the worst for dogs and dog lovers to reside in, we took a few things into consideration. Primarily, as with the above, we considered animal welfare statistics from the World Animal Protection International database. These statistics consider what types of animal protection and welfare laws are in place and how protective those laws are. We also considered trending headlines and local news articles reporting on current events and cultural practices in each country.

It’s important to note that while the “worst” countries listed below have a general reputation for poor treatment of their dogs or a lack of animal rights and protection laws, this does not mean that all nationals from these countries have similarly held beliefs. In fact, many of these countries now have active animal welfare movements underway in an attempt to improve the treatment of pets and homeless or stray animals.

1. Japan

One of the worst things about Japan is the accepted mass execution of dogs and cats. Statistics show that Japanese nationals legally kill approximately 500 dogs and cats every day, and about 300,000 pets in total are cruelly killed each year using means such as suffocation or poisoning.

In Japan, it is not uncommon for dogs to be disposed of with no regard for their sentience, and many dogs find an unpleasant end in local rivers and lakes. There are some areas where dogs are considered members of the family and very well treated; however, on the whole, animal welfare for dogs and cats in Japan is seriously lacking.

2. China

One country you've probably expected to see on the “worst” list is China, and you're not wrong. You’ve likely seen many stories about the poor treatment of dogs in China, and so we won’t focus on the details of that treatment, but suffice it to say, with no animal welfare laws existing in China, dogs simply do not fair well there and there's a serious animal cruelty problem in the country.

Although recent movements by a select group of animal welfare proponents have prompted the beginnings of change, the fact remains that many dogs in China are severely mistreated, neglected, and abused. On the bright side, new generations are making it a priority to treat animals better, and China might soon see an improvement in this area.

3. Egypt

Similarly to China, Egypt is a country that is well-known for its mistreatment of animals, and their overall animal cruelty regulations are extremely poor. Very few laws exist against causing animal suffering. It's not uncommon in Egypt to keep animals in captivity, and companion animals and wild animals alike are all very poorly protected and provided for by the government.

Egypt also regularly uses animals for scientific research, and local communities often see torturous treatment of stray animals by both adults and children. Unlike China, there don't seem to be any improvements on the horizon, and Egypt has one of the longest ways to go for fixing the animal cruelty problems.

4. Greece

Greece has an overwhelming problem with stray dogs, and it is a daily occurrence to read about them being poisoned in an attempt to simply “get rid” of them. Some years ago, the government decided to poison thousands of dogs before the Olympics to clean up the streets. It is also not uncommon to see Greek dogs being kept in chains and refused food or medical care, leading to a very slow and painful death.

You'd expect to see some improvements in this regard given the track record of other countries, but the situation has actually only worsened in recent years as the country continues to suffer a recession that has no end in sight. Authorities said there were over one million stray dogs on the streets of Greece in 2015, with more being abandoned every day.

5. Saudi Arabia

Unfortunately for those dog lovers considering relocating to Saudi Arabia, canines are viewed to be quite “unclean” animals by the locals – a generally accepted Muslim belief. As such, dogs are just not widely welcomed in the area. The small percentage of dogs that are kept as pets in Saudi Arabia must be “working dogs” in order to be legally kept as pets.

Saudi Arabia's religious police have gone as far as completely banning pets in several cities, calling it a “bad Western influence.” Although trends of dog ownership, in general, are very slowly changing in the country, there is still not wide acceptance of dogs as part of the family. While we should note that very few dogs are treated poorly—perhaps through avoidance rather than confrontation—Saudi Arabia is simply “not into pets.”

6. India

India is another country with a significant problem with stray dogs. It's approximated that the country has about 30 million stray dogs. This problem has led to most of the country’s population of dogs being “street dogs.” Many of these street dogs have learned to live off the people, but there is a prevalence of rabies and dog bites from once-domesticated dogs that are trying to survive as wild animals. Statistics show that India accounted for 35% of deaths from rabies, the highest number of any country in the world.

There is, however, a growing movement for improved care of stray dogs in India which includes spaying and neutering street dogs before releasing them back into the streets. Local veterinarians have also been working to educate the public about rabies and dog bites to reduce the number of incidences annually. That said, while things improve minimally, India is still not a country we recommend relocating to with a healthy, happy family dog.

What Else to Consider When Emigrating with Your Dog

Researching your destination country is a great first step when it comes to emigrating, but there are also other factors to consider before making your final decision. One of the most important considerations, of course, is whether the destination country is somewhere that you would be happy to move to. Another consideration is the actual emigration process.

What will it take for you and your dog to move? It isn’t too difficult to find out the requirements for humans who are relocating, but be sure to look into any quarantine requirements for your dog. Check USDA's list for International Animal Export Regulations before moving. For example, some countries require your dog to spend six months or more in quarantine before they can officially move in with you once you emigrate.

The animal quarantine period is to ensure that your dog does not transmit any diseases that are not native to your country of relocation. Know what type of quarantine, if any, you are facing, whether this is something you think your dog could go through, and if there is any way to avoid it. It's not pleasant to be moved to another country with a dog only to later find out that your dog has to stay somewhere for half a year. In short, always take the time to make a decision that is best for you and your dog based on thorough research.

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Top Best and Worst Countries for Dogs and Their Owners

Latasha Doyle is a writer, wife, and a fur mom living outside of Denver, CO. She has always been an animal lover and adopted her dogs, Clyde and Webster, in 2008. Latasha and her husband also have four cats for a complete and friendly family.