Though voluntary, this new license, which takes about two hours to obtain and costs a modest 25 euros ($30), has both written and practical "driving" tests to assess the owner’s competence. For the written part of the exam, candidates must answer multiple-choice questions that check whether they know their responsibilities concerning their pet’s health and behavior.
"When your dog wags its tail, does it mean it is happy, excited or bored?" is a typical question. The practical part simulates a spin – in this case a "walk" – through town, testing the owner in a variety of predicaments such as putting a muzzle on the dog in the tram or underground or picking up after you dog.
Those happy owners who pass their "license", or Hundefuehrerschein, will be exempt from the annual dog tax of 43.60 euros ($53) and will receive a few goodies for their pets, from vouchers for a new leash to bags for their pet’s mess. The initiative was triggered by a survey of 500 Viennese residents in September 2004 in which a surprising 85 percent backed the idea of instituting a "driving license for dogs".
Vienna officially counts about 47,000 canines – meaning those subject to a city dog tax – but estimates say there could be up to 150,000 hounds for a population of 1.7 million humans. A license, following a test, is already required for guard dogs for security reasons, a measure in place in many countries. The new license is for the average street pooch, which many still find intimidating.