Pets are family members, so they are of course coming with you on your big adventure to Ghent. While many cats and dogs are not big fans of long trips, they will undoubtedly have travelled a long distance with you to come to Belgium. Here’s a short guide the help you and them land gently and get settled in your new home.
Pets and customs
Belgium is part of the European Union, applying the harmonised EU rules for cross-border movement of pets. If you are bringing your cat or dog from another EU country, it will need a microchip, certain vaccinations and its blue pet passport. You can get all the info from your vet who can also issue the pet passport.
If you are coming from a non-EU country, you should check what rules apply for importing a dog or a cat from your country into the EU.
Coming to Ghent with a dog
Belgians are a relatively dog-friendly bunch. Not quite like the Austrians, but still. Your furry mate will be welcome in most of the corner pubs, so you can rely on them to bring you home after you’ve tasted a few of those delicious Belgian beers.
On the other hand, many landlords refuse to rent out their place to people with pets. You might be searching for a long time before you find someone who is happy with renting out to people with a dog.
Belgians love their rules. And the rules in Ghent state that dogs have to be kept on a leash at all times. You will see a common disregard for this rule among the local population, but ignore it at your own peril – the fines start at 60EUR.
As a dog owner you will need a liability insurance, covering any damage caused by your dog to others. Usually, your “family insurance” (familialeverzekering) will cover this as well, but be sure to check with your insurance company. This insurance – and several vaccinations – is also obligatory if you’re planning to take your pooch to a puppy school.
On the smelly subject of dog poop, note that the owners are obliged to always have at least 2 scoop bags on them. The fine for not being properly equipped or not picking up after your furball can be up to 60EUR. There are several dog toilets around the town, clearly signposted with brown boards. Dogs can enjoy some off-leash time in dog parks, however not all dog parks in Ghent have a fence, so be careful if your dog has a tendency to run away.
All sporting facilities and children’s playgrounds are off limits to dogs. And what to do with your dog during long, hot summer days? Take him or her to the doggy beach at the Blaarmeersen park to cool down.
Cats have the advantage that you don’t need to walk them, but they do like their creature comforts. As I’ve mentioned above, some landlords in Ghent are vary of people with pets. Thus there is a chance that it will take you a bit longer to find rental accommodation for you and your furball.
While cats also have to be microchipped, there is no established database for these chip codes in Belgium. Since cats tend to run away from home more often than dogs, this can be a problem for pet owners.
Buying pet supplies
There are two big pet supplies chains in Belgium: Maxi Zoo and Tom&Co. They carry all the main food brands and have a wide selection of pet care products as well. A slightly cheaper alternative is the online pet shop Zooplus. You can find some pet care products, like anti-flea drops and veterinary diet food, at your local pharmacy. Additionally, all food stores carry at least basic pet food and cat litter.
Finding a vet
Veterinary offices (dierenarts) have a blue cross above their entrance and are thus easy to spot. The vets take care of all the vaccinations, checks and order laboratory tests. They also perform smaller surgeries and sterilisation/spaying. The vets usually work Monday to Friday, during daytime. Outside working hours, you should contact your regular vet (during the week) or the pet emergency number (dierenarts van wacht) during weekends and holidays.
Going on a holiday when you are living far away from your usual social network can be a problem when you have pets. Luckily, there’s the Belgian startup Pawshake that helps owners get in touch with local pet sitters. This is a peer-to-peer service, so don’t expect professional pet sitters but rather pet lovers who are happy to take care of your cat or dog while you are away. All money transactions are carried out online and some basic insurance is provided by the platform.