| GERMAN FIGHTING DOG LAWS UPDATE: |
THE NAME GAME
By A Special Correspondent
FACED WITH an embarassing setback over their plans to introduce Europe-wide breedspecific legislation via the European Parliament, the German Federal Government appear to have taken a new approach to the matter of getting other countries -es pecially Britain - to fall in line with their plans.
It will be remembered, of course, that the canine holocaust in Germany came about due to the relentless political and media hype against so-called 'Fighting Dogs'. By concentrating on a small number of dog attacks, caused by dogs owned by a tiny minority of irreesponsible owners, the public mood had been tainted against dogs. All that was needed now was a suitably alarming flashpoint to enable to authoroties to introduce the harsh laws and swingeing dog taxes thay had so long fought for.
The flashpoint almost came in April of this year, when an 86 year-old woman was attacked and killed by a Rottweiler. But whilst there was public outrage - justified to a certain extent - it wasn't 'quite' enough. However, the asvage and needless dath of six year-old Volkan Kaja, the son of Turkish immigrants, killed by two genuine, trained fighting dogs - an American Pit Bull Terrier named "Zeus" and and an American Stafford - as he innocently played in a school playground in Hamburg WAS the required flashpoint.
Since then, as has been reported in OUR DOGS, there has been a consistent campaign against ordinary, law-abiding dog owners in Germany and their dogs. Whole groups of breeds are demonised, dogs have been taken from their families and destroyed, dog owners attacked in the streets by their fellow citiens, merely for owning a dog. But, as has also been reported, there has been a concerted worldwide campaign to fight back against these genocidal laws. Demontsrations have been staged, boycotts arranged, German politicians forced under the scrutiny of not just the German public, but the world at large, their actions dissected, their fragile credibility further undermined.
In short, the campaigners have won many significant battles. The biggest humiliation for the German Government was, of course, their failure to secure a European law to ban three Bull breeds, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Stafford and, crucially, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It is the inclusion of the 'Staffie' which has incensed British dog owners. The help of MEPs has been sought and secured, and, thanks to timely intervention by the British Kennel Club's Press Officer Phil Buckley, the British delegataion at the crucial EU meeting at the end of September were well briefed and able to get the German request deferred.
Of course, the German Government are going to try to force EU Bred Specific legislation through again, but for now, their plans have been thwarted.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the authorities have decided on a stealthier approach, one well known to lobbyists for a particular cause; the steady "Drip-Drip-Drip" of publicity, of misinformation, to impinge infoirmation upon the public subcionscious. We'de seen it before: "Tail docking is cruel mutilation." "Fox Hunting is the barbaric sport of upperclass animal abusers." "Microchips are the ONLY effective form of dog identification." "Dog registration will solve all the problems of stray and dangerous dogs."
Therefore, at the beginning of October, campaigners around the world were surprised - to say the least - that any written or e-mailed enquiries to German embassies in several cities all met with a similar response. By some strange quirk, the dog which killed Volkan was NOT an American Pit Bull Terrier, it was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. One campaigner received a letter from the office of Rainer Dobblestein, Head of the Legal and Consular Department at the German Embassy in London in reply to her letter about the state-sanctioned killing of dogs in Germany. The letter, signed by Herr Dobblestein's Deputy, Wolfgang Drautzcontained the contentious "Staffie" remark: " There is no question of entire breeds or large numbers of dogs being destroyed in Germany, since this would represent a violation of German animal protection law. To my knowledge, only one dog was recently put down, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier which killed a child in Hamburg." (see letter reproduced in full....)
The letter was passed to OUR DOGS' Chief Reporter Nick Mays, who duly contacted Herr Dobblestein and queried the apparent change of breed. "Yes, I too was surprised at this when I received the information from the City of Hamburg," said Herr Dobblestein. "I queried it twice with them, but I was told that the Hamburg police had confirmed that the dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier."
Having no reason to doubt Herr Dobblestein's word, Mays duly sent a fax to the Press Office of the City of Hamburg and asked on wehaty basis the breed of dog had been changed from a Pit Bull to a Stafford. The very next day, an e-mail was received from Stefan Marks, Spokesman for Hamburg's Ministry of the Interior Health Department. Herr Marks' reply was brief and to the point:
"The press office of the Ministry of the Ineterior handed your questions out to my office. I can confirm that ZEUS was a Pit Bull. The accompaning bitch was an American Staffordshire Terrier. I don´t know where different information came from."
So there it is: An official e-mail which confirms that someone, somewhere, gave false information to German Embassies around the world, to "incriminate" Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The reason can only be to use the "Drip-Driop-Drip" method to strengthen the support for a Euro-BSL ban on Staffords. However, this ploy, like others, is now dead in water - lkargely thanks to OUR DOGS' intervention. However, it just goes to show how devious and underhand the enemy can be in their plans to ban dogs.
Let all British dog owners beware. Today it was ALMOST a Staffie. Tomorrow it may be YOUR breed. After all, as the Bard of Avon said; "What's in a Name"? And similarly, as the anti-dog lobby may say; "A dog is just a dog, isn't it?"
[BOX]: German Embassy Letter:
London, 4 October 2000
Direct Line: 020-78241450
Thank you very much for your e-mail regarding the treatment of dogs in Germany.
Your views are very much appreciated. We have received many expressions of concern from British citizens on this subject, and have made sure that the authorities concerned are aware of them.
You will, I am sure, have seen reports of the cases in Germany in which people - both adults and children - have been seriously injured or even killed by dogs. You will appreciate that these cases have caused great public distress in Germany. I would like to explain briefly the measures that have been taken or are currently being considered by the authorities in Germany to try to ensure public safety.
In Germany, the sixteen federal states (Länder) are mainly responsible for law and order matters. In considering this question, they have followed the basic principle that the main responsibility for ensuring that dogs are safe to the public is the owner.
In this light, a number of safety regulations - with, however, considerable variations among the different Länder - have been introduced, such as keeping dogs on a lead or muzzle in public places, but also compulsory registration and liability insurance. These measures apply generally to potentially dangerous dogs, but certain breeds are subject to stricter requirements if they are considered by the experts to be potentially more dangerous than others. This may include prohibition unless there is specific prior authorisation based on proof of the owner's reliability and good character.
Under the new laws passed by most of the Länder, Staffordshire Bull Terriers as a breed are subject to certain of the above measures. For similar reasons the Bullmastiff, Mastiff, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Bullterrier breeds are also subject to these measures.
However, irrespective of breed, only in very rare and exceptional circumstances, i.e. where a particular dog is considered as especially dangerous and presenting a definite and real threat to the public, can a dog be put down by the authorities. There is no question of entire breeds or large numbers of dogs being destroyed in Germany, since this would represent a violation of German animal protection law. To my knowledge, only one dog was recently put down, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier which killed a child in Hamburg.
The whole question has been put on the agenda of the appropriate EU Councils since pets can travel freely with their owners across most European borders and as there have been similar tragic incidents in other countries. Given the great public concern, the Federal Government is considering the introduction of import licences for certain breeds of dogs, possibly also a ban on the import of specific breeds.The various associations of breeders in Germany are actively participating in the continuing debate on how to find the right answers to the difficult question of dogs and human safety. I enclose an overview over current import and transit regulations.
I very much hope this has brought you the desired information, but also reassurance.
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