An information resource about pets in Croatia. Travelling with pets, transport, beaches, accommodation, vets, attitudes, and are Dalmatians really Croatian?

Should you bring your pet to Croatia for your vacation?

Mostly, the answer to that question is a heartfelt – yes. People in Croatia are mostly very friendly to well-behaved pets (which we’re guessing yours are). There are numerous opportunities for your pets to have a great time in Croatia. Swimming, trekking, or doing anything else you and your pet enjoy doing.

One small word of warning: maybe it would be best, if you plan on bringing your pet to Croatia for a vacation, to avoid the peak tourist season (that would be late June, July and August) or at least the most popular tourist places in Croatia. It tends to be hot and very crowded here in that period. Let’s be honest – most dogs won’t really appreciate that. Unless of course you’re planning on spending almost all of your time away from any tourist-oriented places. And that won’t be easy.

Transporting a pet to/from Croatia

The rules and regulations regarding the entry of pets to Croatia are what you’d expect from a European Union country. Pets must have a microchip, have a pet passport or authorised certificate. This must confirm a clean bill of health, and they need to be vaccinated against rabies.

For pets younger than three months, things are somewhat more complicated. But you shouldn’t really take your pet for a vacation anyway if it’s less than three months old. All those rules are valid for non-commercial entry of animals to Croatia (under 5 animals), for low-risk countries (listed in the bylaw), and for dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, rabbits and some other species (also listed in the bylaw).

There is an additional bylaw, defining which border crossings are possible for animals to enter Croatia. But it includes almost all major border crossings in Croatia, including ports and airports, so you shouldn’t worry about that, as it is highly unlikely you’ll find yourself passing Croatian border on any of the border crossings that are not in that bylaw.

Similar rules apply for when an animal is leaving Croatia and going to a different country, it should be clearly identified by a micro chip and vaccinated. It is possible that any country to which you plan to bring the pet might have more stringent rules, so if you choose to do so, please make sure you know what they might be expecting.

What’s the general situation/attitude with pets in Croatia?

Over the past several decades, the situation with (and the conditions of) pets in Croatia has drastically improved. These days in most places in Croatia dogs and cats live as spoiled pets. While, to be fair, it is still possible to run into animals that seem to have less-than-ideal lives, especially in smaller town or rural places in Croatia (which means that dogs can sometimes be seen permanently chained and cats allowed to live “freely” without any attempts to control their population, as it was done in the past).

But, in most situations, the pets you’re probably going to meet in Croatia have a good life. Most of the pets in Croatia are microchipped and vaccinated every year, most of them will be held on leashes.

In most places in Croatia it is against the local bylaws to let pets roam around freely, without leashes. Although, to be honest, the chances are you’ll meet a local dog whom everyone knows, roaming around freely, especially in smaller Dalmatian towns. And, yes, we’ll get back to the topic of Dalmatians, I assure you!

Laws regarding pets in Croatia

We’ve already mentioned the most important laws regarding pets in Croatia: they should have a microchip and they should have all of the necessary vaccinations (for dogs, the most important one remains the rabies shot). There are other national laws regarding pets. The most notable one concerns “the dangerous breeds”. This refers to dogs from the group of breeds usually known as bull terriers, including the miniature variant.

There are some special conditions for keeping those animals. This includes the provision that the dogs belonging to the group can only enter Croatia if they have a pedigree issued by a member of the International Canine Organisation. These dogs should always be on the leash and have a muzzle on at all times while in public.

In addition to national laws, there are many local bylaws telling you where dogs can be off-leash, as well as manage other pet-questions for the local community. These vary, honestly, but most are really reasonable (more on this topic here).

Keep your pet on the leash in populated areas (unless it’s a clearly marked dog-park where the dog can be off-leash). And ask if you can sit at a bar or a restaurant with your pet! In most situations, in most tourist-oriented places, the answer will be a clear “Yes!”, and your companion will receive a bowl of water during the summer. And, if you get a “No”, that’s also OK, there are lots of places that will appreciate your business.

What about accommodation with pets in Croatia?

Well, you’re just going to have to inquire about that. Don’t assume that any accommodation will be OK with your pet. But also please don’t assume that you won’t be welcome anywhere with your Newfoundland dog (or something similar). Almost all camps in Croatia are pet-friendly. There are literally only a few that have a strict pet-free policy but those are in larger tourist areas and there are other camps around them where your pet will be welcome.

With hotels, the situation is a bit more complex. Here the ratio between those accepting pets and those who do not want to accommodate such guests is a bit different. Also, numerous hotels have odd rules of accepting just “smaller” pets, without detailed explanation of what exactly they mean, so again – ask them! And if the answer is “No”, there will be another hotel nearby where you and your pet will be more than welcome.

And almost the exact same thing is true about private accommodation – if you’re looking for a place to stay in Croatia through any of the well-known online services, it will clearly state that the apartment is pet-friendly, and if you’re “shopping” through other means, just make sure you ask in advance and explain clearly what type of pet you plan to bring for you. You will almost certainly be able to find accommodation in your preferred location, especially if you’re arriving outside of the peak tourist season, as there are more choices in that period.

There are websites that can help you navigate Croatian accommodation and renters and look for the ones that will take your pet: while probably not completely up-to-date, you can certainly get a feel of the number of options there are www.povedi.me

Taking pets on public transport

In Croatia, it will often be possible to take your pet on most forms of public transportation, but the rules will often be murky, not clearly defined and your success will often vary, depending on the size of your pet, the exact time you want to travel with your pet and the mood of the driver. While that is, admittedly, less than ideal as it creates unnecessary stress for the passengers, it’s just something you should be aware of.

Pets on trains in Croatia

On Croatian trains small animals (up to 30 cm of height) can travel in transport boxes, and dogs of that size can sit on the owner’s lap – both of those options is free. Service dogs of all kinds are can also travel for free. Bigger dogs need to have their veterinary booklet, proving their bill of health, micro chip, need to be on a short leash and wear a muzzle, and you have to pay for their train ride. If you want to take your dog on a sleeping coach you have to pay for all the beds in the section.

Pets on buses in Croatia

For bus travel between cities in Croatia, the rules are much less clear, as there are many companies providing the service and their rules differ. It’s very hard to say when you will be allowed on which bus with what kind of dog. Still, maybe your safest bet would be not to expect to be allowed on a bus with any type of dog during the high-season, and in the off-season your biggest chances to get a dog on a bus are if it’s a small thing in a transport box.

Pets on ferries in Croatia

Dogs can go on ferries in Croatia too, with similar conditions as on the trains: either in transporters (smaller dogs, birds, cats) or on a short leash and with a muzzle (bigger dogs). Often they may not enter certain areas on ferries, such as saloons, restaurants and cabins.

Public transportation within cities in Croatia, such as Zagreb, Split and Rijeka, also varies significantly. In Split and Rijeka your dog is welcome on public transportation only if in a transport box (so, bigger dogs are not really allowed), and in Zagreb you have the option of a box (free) of your dog can board the tram/bus on a short leash, with a muzzle and proper paperwork, and pay the full ticket. Or you can pay it for them, if they don’t have the cash handy.

As always, it’s the owner’s full responsibility to make sure the pet doesn’t destroy, damage or soil the vehicle in which it is travelling. Have plenty of baggies and tissues ready, take a dog for a long walk before getting on any type of public transport, have water ready and if anything goes wrong, clean up after your pet.

What to do if you find a stray in Croatia / Dog Shelters in Croatia?

There aren’t that many stray dogs in Croatia, actually. When it comes to cats, there are much more free-living cats in Croatia, and only recently has there been increased awareness of their poor quality of life. Now many towns and local communities have various Catch, Spay and Release programs for cats, and even those populations have been more or less constant and the cats living in better conditions.

Dog shelters

There are many animals’ rights groups in Croatia, taking animals off the streets and providing them with shelter and finding them suitable homes. All of the local government units need to have contracts with a shelter, and that shelter needs to provide the service of taking care of strays. Since 2017 all animals’ shelters are no-kill shelters. Before that, sometimes it was difficult for people to let strays go to shelters, because their days there were counted, but now that’s not the case anymore.

Stray dogs

We have mentioned already that most dogs in Croatia that have owners are microchipped, so if you find a dog in Croatia that looks like a stray to you (ask around at first, especially in Dalmatia: it might just as well be a dog belonging to an irresponsible owner, who lets their pet walk around as it pleases, and the dogs knows perfectly well how to get back home when it decides to), your first course of action is to take it to the local vet.

There, the vet will be able to determine if the dog was microchipped, and if it was, start the process of returning it to its owner. If it was not, and there’s no way to find out who it belongs to, the vet will also be able to help you get in contact with the local shelter, in charge of caring for the dogs in the area. The dogs are vaccinated at the shelters, cured of any obvious diseases (unfortunately, they are not neutered/spayed at the expense of the local government, which is something that needs to change as soon as possible) and microchipped, so they’re ready for adoption. So, if you’re so inclined, there’s a chance that you might be able to take a friend from a shelter home with you?

Veterinary services in Croatia

The Croatian Chamber of Veterinary Medicine has a list of veterinary practices on their website, although it doesn’t seem that the list is fully up-to-date. Many veterinary practices in Croatian towns and cities are almost completely oriented towards providing care for pets, and the vets working there are experts in the field.

Before you decide to come to Croatia for a vacation, you might want to give it a quick Google, just to make sure your chosen location has a vet nearby (which it almost certainly will), and to have their contacts ready in case you really need them.

In bigger practices you’ll be able to do the blood test, ultrasounds and other diagnostics if necessary, and the vets will be able to either sell you a drug needed or give you the prescription to get at the human pharmacy. The prices for basic veterinary services and medicines are quite affordable in Croatia.

What should you worr about in Croatia?

Well, actually, there aren’t that many animals or insects in Croatia that can hurt your pet. The ones that you might run into while in Croatia include ticks, pappataci, hornets, horse flies and scorpions. Ticks are much more prevalent in continental Croatia, while finding one in Dalmatia during the summer will be a rarity.

But, you will probably run into the pappataci there, and you can get several viral diseases from their bites, including leishmaniasis and pappataci fever. Some type of tick-repellent, either spot-on ampoules or collar is advisable before coming to Croatia.

That won’t help against hornets of horse flies, whose bite might require a trip to the vet to get a treatment of antihistamines and/or steroids to help reduce the consequences of the bite. (Another good reason to have the local vet’s info available)

Pet shops in Croatia

There are numerous pet shops in Croatia, as well as other places where you might be able to buy stuff for your pet. The biggest pet-store chain is Pet Centar, with shops in 6 towns in Croatia. Zoo City also has their shops in several towns in Croatia, including in most Dalmatian towns (Zadar, Split, Sibenik). You will be able to buy some entry-level dog food in bigger general stores, such as Konzum, Lidl, Tommy or Spar as well, but the two bigger pet shop chains will have a bigger selection of well-known brands, as well as much more equipment for your pet (such as a new leash, if the old one has broken as soon as you set foot in Croatia).

Also, most veterinary practices will also be able to offer you some basic stuff, like dog food or repellents, and usually at just a bit of a premium.

Dog beaches in Croatia

Croatian beaches often hit the international headlines for their beauty, but one beach near in Kvarner made global headlines for an altogether different reason – some canine-loving entrepreneur had opened a beach bar… dogs.

The concept has proven extremely popular, and it highlights the acceptance of pets in Croatia on those all-important beaches – at least some of them. TCN recently did a comprehensive guide to beaches for pets in Croatia. And you can check it out here.

What Do Dalmatians have to do with Dalmatia?

Well, everything! It is one of the several breeds recognised by FCI as originating from Croatia, in their case, from Dalmatia. Of course, if you’ve ever seen the animated Disney’s film 101 Dalmatians from 1961 (and chances are you have, if you’re reading this) you know exactly what the Dalmatian dog looks like: medium-sized, white with (mostly) black spots, friendly and has a lot of puppies (well, no, they don’t have nowhere near that many puppies in real life!).

Their history in Croatia is long: there’s an altar painting in Veli Lošinj, which is dated to the early 17th century, where you can find a dog that looks quite like today’s Dalmatians. The first mention of the name was in the early 18th century, in the continental town of Đakovo, where in the archives of the Archdiocese of Djakovo Canis Dalmaticus is mentioned. Today they can still be found in Dalmatia, as they are loyal, companion dogs, good hunters (often they help their owners get rid of vermin).

What other breeds are Croatian according to FCI?

The Croatian Shepherd Dog is a black small-ish shepherd dog, which is said to be exactly the same since the 14th century. It is intelligent, energetic watchdog, loyal to their master and it loves to bark!

The Istrian short-haired and Istrian wire-haired hounds are two quite similar dog breeds, both excellent dogs for hunting of the smaller game (such as fox and rabbit) and usually kept by hunters, not as pets.

The Posavatz hound is also a hunting dog, but originating from a different region of Croatia – Posavina is the valley around the Sava River in continental Croatia. It’s a bit bigger than the Istrian, usually brownish with white markings, but also a remarkable scent hound and can also often be seen with hunters.

Tornjak is also often considered to be a Croatian type of dog, but it’s official English name gives away that it’s not just Croatian: Bosnian and Herzegovinian – the Croatian Shepherd dog (just call it “Tornjak”, pronounced “tornyak“).

It’s a large Mountain dog breed, dedicated to the protection of the livestock against wolves, foxes or other intruders, capable of withstanding severe cold because of its thick coat. Tornjak is prohibited in Denmark, along with some other mountain dogs.

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