Pets and Animals in Russia
Information on owning and caring for pet animals in Russia, plus details about veterinary care, lost and found animals and animal organisations…
Russians in general are animal lovers and keeping pets is popular. Types of animals legally considered domestic pets or ‘animals for keeping company’ include cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, mini-pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, parrots, guinea pigs, turtles, iguanas, hedgehogs, tarantulas and decorative fish.
Due to heavy traffic in big cities, it is safest for cats to be kept inside at all times, and care should also be taken when walking dogs and not letting them roam free. Big cities like Moscow and St Petersburg have problems with stray dogs and feral cats, with some people putting down poison, which should be watched for. There are some organisations aiming to tackle animal welfare issues, but this is greatly underfunded and sporadically organised. For more on stray animals, see the section below.
The law requires dogs in public places to be kept on a (short) leash at all times, and a muzzle should be used for dogs higher than 25 cm. Most public places for eating have a ‘no dogs’ sign at the door and this requirement is made by the Sanitary Institute. An exception can be guide dogs for blind people, but this may depend on the owner or manager. Dogs from larger breeds must be walked by a person older than 14 years and one person cannot walk more than two of these dogs. The law requires cleaning up after dogs, but there are no provisions in the designated areas for obtaining bags or other means for cleaning. Unless very small breeds, dogs can not be taken on the metro, but can be taken on buses, trams and trolley buses.
Winters in Russia can be harsh with temperatures dropping as low as -10 to -30ºC and chemicals are sometimes used on pavements to keep them from icing up. As a result of these factors, and also to some extent fashion, many owners outfit dogs with suits and sometimes even boots. These can be bought in any pet store, with a range of options available. Hardy dogs won’t need them, but for miniature breeds, extra protection from the cold maybe required.
Registration of pets is voluntary. Russian law encourages registration to ensure responsible ownership and good animal care, to help prevent the spread of dangerous infection diseases, to regulate the number of animals, to help find lost pets and to start a unified database of pets in the country. The only exception to this is for dangerous breeds of dogs, for which it is mandatory.
While not legally required for pets in Russia, it is recommended to fit all animals with a microchip. Such microchips are also available at veterinary clinics in Moscow and St Petersburg.
Pets can be bought from pet stores (also known as zoo shops) where they are better cared for but more expensive, or from pet markets – cheaper, but animals may be somewhat neglected. They can also be sourced from friends and colleagues, by online advertisements by private individuals or from animal organisations.
To bring a pet into Russia, the rules and requirements are generally very simple for dogs and cats, although importing other pets can be more difficult.
- For more information on this, see the Guide on Moving Pet Animals
If a pet is lost, the owner should:
- Put up as many signs as possible at local pet stores, shops and supermarkets or train, metro and bus stations
- Contact veterinarians in the area and give the pet’s microchip identification number and contact details
- Report the lost pet at the local police station
- Post on expat forums
If a pet is found, it should be taken to a veterinarian where the data from its microchip (if any) can be read and a search of the owner can be conducted on the databases below.
- Pet ID National database of electronically registered animals in Russian
- Russia Pet Russian National identification database that also connects with European records
- Animal.ru (in Russian)
There are no specific health threats for pets in Russia. The rabies vaccination, among others, is required if the pet is imported, and is recommended if the pet is bought in the country.
There are cases of dog or cat poisonings due to people trying to control the huge and growing populations of stray dogs and feral cats in Russian cities by hiding poison in food and throwing it on the streets where stray animals gather. Care should be taken where pets go outside in some areas and what they eat.
In September 2012, 70 pet dogs were killed in Moscow by poisoned food thrown in the ‘50th Anniversary October Park’ (Park imeni pyatdesyatletyia Oktyiabrya / ???? ????? 50-????? ???????) aimed at targeting stray dogs. An organisation calling itself ‘Dog Hunters’ (doghantery / ??????????) took responsibility saying if all pet dogs had muzzles and were on leads they would not be able to eat the poison.
People often feed stray animals on a regular basis and look on them as a part of city life. One unique activity stray dogs can be seen doing in Moscow is using public transportation. Entering trains at different stations, greeting other dogs, then getting off as a pack elsewhere, stray dogs use the metro to ‘commute’ between areas in the city centre, where they search for food, and out-of-town areas such as industrial areas, where they sleep.
When walking a pet, stray dogs can appear very aggressive in protecting territory, but will often stop short of confrontation. The best approach is to stand ground, but do not challenge them and move away calmly. Newcomers to the area will often be remembered, and the stray may not react in the same way again.