Stray Animals in Croatia: A Concern for Travelers

Stray dogs in the background and text "stray animals in Croatia, should you worry?"

Stray animals exist everywhere, and Croatia is not an exception. Stray dogs can be a difficult problem to deal with, while stray cats are more often just a sad story that presents no danger.

After hearing that many tourists including some digital nomads and people who decided to move into a temporary residency in Croatia had questions about stray dogs, I decided to do research and create a helpful article.

In short, Croatia doesn’t have a big problem with stray animals, but they do exist!

Stray Dogs

Stray dogs are a rarity in urban Croatian regions, especially in those popular tourist destinations where they are non-existent.

I don’t remember encountering a stray dog in any urban area in the last decade, as the only dogs you can encounter on the streets are someone’s pets with their owners next to them.

However, if you travel far away into the rural regions, it’s possible to encounter stay dogs near villages and some cities in Slavonia and Međimurje.

I have a feeling that there are fewer stray dogs in the rural regions as time passes by, but I wouldn’t be surprised to run into stray dogs roaming the streets if unlucky.

Other than that, you might find a couple of strays somewhere far in the superbia of big cities but that’s still a rarity. 

To avoid the rare occasions when you might encounter stray dogs in rural areas avoid walking alone and instead, drive in a car, or carry a self-defense weapon.

Stray dogs in Croatia are basically non-existent because most people take care of their pets and microchip them.

The rare dogs that take an adventure onto the streets are quickly captured, taken to a shelter, and then adopted, and only in some instances euthanized when a dog is reasonably dangerous. 

What to do if you encounter stray dogs?

Most stray dogs will avoid you or won’t show a sign of aggression if you pass by them on the streets in Croatia.

Some dogs might even display signs of friendliness, but it’s generally not advised to pet stray dogs as they might have parasites and transmit diseases which could be bad for your pets if you later touch them.

When encountering a stray dog and noticing a sign of aggression in the dog, you should avoid direct eye contact, stay calm, and back away slowly.

If the stray dog gets closer and tries to attack you you should raise your voice and say “Go away you bad boy” or something similar and try to find a barrier to get behind so that the dog can’t easily charge you.

If you have to climb the tree, climb the tree and call for help!

If necessary and a stray dog charges you in an attempt to bite you, kick it in the nose and keep yelling at it while walking away backward without taking the sight off the dog.

Dealing with irresponsible owners

Many dogs that appear stray actually have irresponsible owners who don’t mind that their dogs strike fear in the nearby streets or hunt small game species.

If you are staying in the area where you experience such problems you have two options:

If staying for a short time, just go over it and ignore them as you won’t achieve much in such a short time and should rather enjoy your vacation instead of dealing with the problems Croatians should deal with instead.

If you are staying here for a bit longer and strays disturb you and you don’t see eye to eye with the people responsible, you have other options.

What does the law say?

People who let their dogs off-leash in public areas can be punished with fines between 260 and 1300 Euros.

Furthermore, pets whether unleashed or leashed are not allowed to roam in cemeteries, markets, children’s playgrounds, flowerbeds, unfenced sports fields, beaches, school and kindergarten yards, and other public areas marked with a sign.

All dogs in the European Union must be microchipped, so there are 800 euros fines for owners who don’t microchip their dogs.

Who to call?

Dogs whose owners can’t be determined can be reported to the nearby animal shelter, veterinarian ambulance, communal security office, or police who’ll continue to provide you with instructions, especially if you consider the animal presents a danger to society.

If you get ignored

Sometimes you might realize that even though the law is pretty clear on the subject, you’ll get ignored.

This unfortunately happens in smaller, rural areas where people simply don’t care.

This is the dark side of Croatia which has it’s roots in bureaucracy and corruption.

Although rare, there have been cases when people would report the problem with irresponsible owners and stray dogs who’d present a direct danger but would get ignored, as everybody they would ask for help would simply state how it’s not their part of the job and the hot potato would continue to bounce from hand to hand.

To battle this, you can either avoid such areas, take the stuff into your hands, or outsmart them.

I am not saying you should hurt the stray dogs, but perhaps an airsoft gun with plastic BBs could work to deter the strays from your property as it inflicts pain yet doesn’t hurt the animal.

Or you could make threats to call the press and tell another story of incompetence which isn’t that rare when it comes to shady people who got their jobs by “networking” without real abilities.

In Croatia, bad publicity does miracles as it puts the eyes on the jobs of the incompetent and they’ll avoid it like the plague.

Are there rabies in Croatia?

Rabies doesn’t exist in Croatia besides a small risk for rabies found in wildlife such as bats. 

Thus, we can conclude that Croatia is a rabies-free state and no stray dogs or cats could transmit rabies or be affected by it.

It’s not necessary to take any prevention against rabies such as taking a vaccine when visiting Croatia.

Rabies is no joke, both for animals and humans, and it’s one of the most notorious diseases that affect stray animals and wildlife in some regions of the world. Hopefully, this part of Europe isn’t known for rabies, but it’s true that a few decades ago there were some cases before it was eradicated.

Croatia has robust protocols regarding treating diseases and animal control.

Stray Cats

On Croatian streets, stray cats outnumber stray dogs by a large margin, yet it’s not near close to what you can find in Istanbul, Turkey.

Most cats you’ll see on Croatian streets have some humans in nearby homes who feed them daily.

It’s usually the cat ladies that can be found in every neighborhood as they provide cats with food and shelter.

Cats don’t transmit any diseases besides a couple of annoying flees but we all know that cats like to take care of their hygiene without human intervention so petting one is safe and actually recommended.

I mean, what’s a better surprise for a cat lover than to be greeted by a cat while drinking a coffee in Dubrovnik’s old town or while passing through an alley?

Just be careful not to run into notorious cat gangs who might stop you and demand petting for the next 15 minutes or you could miss a taxi.

What if you want to help a stray?

We have covered what should be done if stray dogs roam the streets and present the danger and what’s there you can do with irresponsible owners and the law.

Sometimes a stray animal on the street is someone’s lost pet or they need help so they can get taken care of and eventually adopted.

My advice is not to try to pet or rescue packs of stray dogs as it can be dangerous, but you can always report that there are stray dogs in the neighborhood to the veterinarian or local animal rescue organization.

The same applies to cats, if you see small kittens (especially without their mother) it would be great if you’d tell someone, so someone can rescue them.

After all, any stray animal whether a dog or a cat needs love, and rescuing them should be a priority, yet it’s not always possible and we should be aware of potential danger.

Final take

Croatia is not notorious for stray dogs and it’s extremely unlikely that you or anyone you know will encounter stray dogs roaming the streets.

Moreover, it’s even harder for dogs to be dangerous and to transmit diseases, so you should not be afraid to walk the streets.

Most cats that appear stray do have someone in the neighborhood who feeds them, and are super friendly!

There’s always room for those who want to adopt cats and dogs as shelters are often full of animals who need help, so if you want to adopt you can or if you wish to donate money or food to the shelters, such an honorable act will be forever remembered and bring you glory!


Dino is a local who has spent 27 years of his life in Croatia. He's here to provide you with useful information and some local guidance.

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