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by Nick Mays

A RETIRED German dog owner was shot dead by his neighbour who had a pathological hatred of dogs.

The dog owner - identified in the German media by his first name – Peter W was walking his Boxer dog Beauty in the idyllic Oberusel, near Frankfurt, Main one morning when the attack occurred. He was enjoying his retirement, having sold the cinema he owned and managed the previous year and was now happy to spend time with his wife and his dog.

Beauty was running ahead when she started sniffing in some nearby bushes and discovered Peter’s neighbour, Dieter F. Beauty recognised the man and jumped up happily to say hello to him. But retired engineer F, also 60, hated dogs and had lain in wait for Peter and Beauty, armed with a 6.35 calibre pistol.

F aimed the pistol at the dog and fired, but Beauty ran off, escaping being shot. F then coolly inserted a new magazine into the gun and fired 12 shots into Peter W, hitting him at close range in the head and chest. As Peter lay bleeding and dying in the snow, F ran off. Beauty returned to her fallen owner’s side, whining and barking until passers-by made the grim discovery.

Police officers attended the scene and a forensic team conducted a thorough examination of the crime scene, covering Peter’s body with a plastic sheet. As a result, Dieter F was arrested shortly afterwards and confessed after questioning at a local police station.

A police inspector dealing in the murder inquiry told newspapers that Dieter F had a history of wanting to harm animals: "He had repeatedly gone after pets with a knife. Four cases have been brought against him.”

F’s mental state was even worse now, as his wife had left him two weeks previously. A friend of Peter W and his wife described her neighbour as a kind and gentle man. "Beauty was like a child to him,” she said. The friend is now looking after Beauty.

Main Police spokesman Helmut Klinger said that Dieter’s F’s motives were unknown, but that his actions were deliberate. "This was not self defence, the dog had not attacked him. Obviously he had driven to the field on purpose and waited for his victim," said Mr Klinger.

The case has caused shock and outrage throughout Germany, with even the anti-dog media, including the most vociferous, Bild maintaining a sympathetic stance towards the victim who’s only ‘crime’ had been to walk his dog.

Marcus Dowe, spokesman for the anti-fighting dog law pressure group Domino Dogs Deutschland expressed his horror at the incident.

“We are shaken by the news about the newest escalation of violence against dog-owners in Germany. Unfortunately we have the first victim who died because of violence. A 60 year-old Owner of a Boxer who left his house in the early morning hours to take a walk with his dog was shot.

“For the past eighteen months we have complained that dog owners are being abused, threatened and have been the victims of acts of violence. The seriousness of the situation and our fears were not seen by politicians and the media.

“For the past eighteen months we have advised dog owners to walk in groups for their own safety, but often this is not possible. We are sure that the 60 year old man would still be alive without the media campaign against dog owners!

“As so often when a tragedy happens, newspapers look for more stories. Since that incident acts of violence against dog owners are now published by newspapers. The media tries now to damn the acts of violence against dog owners. But it is a bad sign for our society that people only begin to think about this after a man has been murdered.”

Dowe’s sentiments are, of course, entirely accurate. A similar situation existed in the UK in the early years of the Dangerous Dogs Act until some of the outrages perpetrated by the authorities against dogs and their owners began to be reported by the national media (the canine media having reported such abuses from the very beginning). This changed public and media opinion against the draconian DDA and led, eventually, to the Government feeling sufficiently pressurised into amending the Act.

Of course, Peter W’s untimely death at the hands of an obviously unhinged neighbour is a tragedy. But perhaps some good can come from such a wanton act of evil. If the German public and media opinion towards dogs and dog owners changes as a result of this crime, then perhaps, in time, the German Federal Government and States Governments will come under pressure to change the Fighting Dog laws and cease their campaign of discrimination against dog owners. This year is an election year in Germany, so never has the time been better for campaigners to put pressure on politicians to reverse the cruel and unjust laws and climate of hatred towards dogs which led to an innocent man being killed.

© Nick Mays/OUR DOGS 2002