I’ve been surrounded by pets my whole life. Even when I didn’t live with one in the house, I could visit someone with a pet in less than 10 minutes. And being a pet lover is hard in Prague.
I didn’t realize quite how hard it was until I was in Bucharest, and I felt really weird not seeing dogs around. If you’re outside in Prague at any given moment, there will be no less than 3 people walking their puppies within eyesight. They take them to restaurants, to parks, to the market, to the bars.
It’s like being single on Valentine’s Day but every day. It’s the worst.
So what can you do to get a pet fix if you’re an expat animal-lover in Prague?
A lot apparently.
If you travel as much as I do, or you know you’re otherwise not home enough to take care of a dog of your own, one of the easiest things to do is volunteer at a shelter. For instance, the Shelter for Abandoned Dogs in Liben takes on volunteers as long as they can commit to coming at least once a week for a minimum of six months. As long as you don’t mind commuting to Liben, you can walk the shelter dogs once or twice a week. If you’re already a volunteer, you may also be able to get in other activities like bathing, which are scheduled ahead of time.
The Prague Animal Welfare Association also accepts volunteers, especially to socialize cats so they can be adopted. This is even farther from central Prague, but at least it only involves cuddling. But volunteer opportunities vary throughout the year. If you Google “animal shelters in Prague,” you’ll get a long list of places you can contact to see if they need any help. But here’s a list to get you started.
Dog-walking or pet sitting
Another alternative is offering your services as a dog walker or pet sitter. This is amazing because you get to spend time with dogs (or cats) and get paid for it. There is a Facebook group where people post ads for pet adoption, fostering, and care-taking. Though if definitely seems as though most of the people there are thirsty ass expats like me looking for playtime with someone else’s animals.
You’re probably better off using Bazos.cz (link is directly to Services for Animals) which is what locals use for classifieds. But it might be hard for you to get any clients that way if you don’t speak Czech. The other downside is that you might have to coordinate long distances or work out scheduling conflicts. And if you’re looking to make serious money off this, you might have trouble getting more than one or two clients unless you have sources or referrals.
So the alternative is to go through an agency. Though you’ll be shorted for the convenience of having a middleman, there’s a company called Pawz that offers pet sitting, pet walking, and pet running. But the good thing about working for an agency is that they’ll set you up with clients, and they’ll make an effort to pair you with clients that are close to you. You have to walk with a GPS tracker to ensure the dog is getting walked the proper amount. This also means you can’t steal the puppy and bring them to your house to play and cuddle while you’re supposed to be walking them.
Another short-term option is fostering dogs. I found a company that has a massive database of animals that are up for adoption, many of which need temporary homes. It’s called Home4pets and on there you can browse the dogs and cats of all sizes, ages, shapes, and backgrounds. They even have a section of animals that never got adopted and died in shelters to really make you wanna kill yourself if you don’t adopt like 6 of them. (To be clear, these are dogs that died of old age or disease in the shelter. There are no kill shelters in Prague. I’m sure the Czechs would sooner kill me and give my apartment to a bunch of strays than kill a dog.)
It doesn’t matter if your residency in the Czech Republic is temporary. You can foster the dogs while they find a permanent home. The agency handles vet visits and finding a new owner. All you have to do is sign some paperwork and take the little guy home. I contacted Home4pets and told them a little bit about myself. They had the perfect dog for me. An adorable mutt that just had surgery and hates being alone. I would be perfect, she said, since I work from home.
The problem was I needed to ask my landlord for permission first. My advice to you is that you do this before you start scheming to foster a dog. Many apartments stipulate that pets are not allowed in the lease, which eliminates all doubt. And though I don’t have a lease, I had a feeling my landlord wasn’t going to think this was adorable. But I asked anyway, and he did, in fact, say no.
If you do have the ability to keep a pet at home, you can also consider adopting. Adopting may be difficult if you’re not Czech or a permanent resident. The city’s main shelter, which is state-run, will not let foreigners adopt, unless you have at least permanent residency. That being said, you can always get a Czech friend to adopt it in their name. Rules and regulations in the Czech Republic tend to be pliable if you’re creative.
The adoption process includes ensuring the animal is vaccinated, microchipped, and registered. You can also get a EU pet passport for your new dog or cat if you need to travel with it. Of course, you’ll have to pay an adoption fee, which is anywhere from $50-200.
But do remember, even if you can jump through any hoops and obstacles of not being a permanent resident, you should think twice about adopting if you’re not sure you’re willing to transport your new furry friend home with you when your visa expires. Don’t abandon your pet when it becomes inconvenient. If you think that sounds like you, then you should try one of the other options.
Play with people’s pets on the street
Czech dogs are extremely well-trained. They’re often off leashes even when they’re alone, waiting patiently for their owners who are inside a store. If they’re even a minor threat, they’ll have a muzzle. So it’s probably safe to sneak a little belly rub if you run into a cute retriever at the park or on the train. But you should be polite and ask the owner first. “Can I pet your dog?” in Czech is “Můžu si pohladit vašeho psa?” So yeah… it’s probably better to just foster one of your own.