An Update on the situation in Germany
by OUR DOGS Chief Reporter, NICK MAYS
NOW IT'S DEMPSEY MARK 2
THE LATEST outrage to be perpetrated in Germany occurred on Friday of last week when an 18 month-old American Stafford named 'Duke' was seized by police officers for having his muzzle removed in the street by his owner to allow the dog to vomit. British dog owners will recognise the grim parallels with the classic UK Dangerous Dogs Act case of 'Dempsey', the Pit Bull sentenced to death for having her muzzle removed in public to enable her to vomit.
Under the newly introduced German legislation, all 'proscribed' breeds must undergo a temperament test and must be muzzled and leashed at all times in public. Duke was being walked through the streets of Bottrop by his owner, identified as 'Bjorn', along with his girlfriend, Anja, a prominent campaigner against the draconian German dog control legislation and her own dog. Both dogs had been assessed by the Ordungsamt, the official 'behaviour test official' on July 7th, and both had passed.
Duke began to cough and attempted to vomit, but was unable to do so because of the retsrictive muzzle. Bjorn removed the dog's muzzle to enable him to vomit, at which point two police officers approached the couple and told Bjorn that they were seizing his dog for breach of the muzzling laws. One of the officers allegedly told Bjorn that he was "going to shoot the dog five times, because his leash is too long." Duke was duly taken to an "Auffangzwinger" (temporary boarding kennel) and held until the authorities decide whether or not he should be destroyed.
Campaigner Edith Steffen told OUR DOGS: "Duke is a dog used to be kept in the family, so he is suffering due to be isolated. Anja and Bjorn have seen him in the kennel and told me he has 'bloody marks' which he did not have before or at the time of confiscation."
Both Anja and Bjorn went to the local police station to attempt to sort the matter out and spoke to Police Officer Klaus Berkenbusch, whom Anja had met some five days previously when he had stopped her in the street and threatened to arrest her for the heinous crime of wearing a T-Shirt with a Pit Bull Terrier logo on the front.
The two officers who seized Duke stated that there had "already been incidents involving these two owners". Duke and Bjorn had not been involved in the T-Shirt incident in any way, as Bjorn lives in the nearby city of Dinslaken with his parents.
Anja immediately called for a duty lawyer, who duly questioned one of the police officers about the 'previous incidents', at which point he had to admit that the incident had not involved Duke, or even Anja's own dog, but the fact that Anja was wearing a Pit Bull terrier T-Shirt. The officer refused to give his name, even to the lawyer.
Edith Steffen adds: "Anja and Björn tried to make a report to the police, but this was refused by a Mr. Schittek at the police station, even though this is against German law.
The officers also confiscated Bjorn's own ID card, which will cause him inconvenience, as ID cards are necessary at all times. It seems that the Bottrop city police have victimised these young people and Duke and believe they can get away with it. However, legal steps will be taken and the Dog Holocaust campaign will bring pressure to bear to ensure that Duke, who is a calm and placid dog, is released.
"I have to say, I feel ashamed to be German... this is like the a police state. I urge all dog owners to write in support of Duke."
DUTCH PROTESTS AGAINST EU DOG LAWS
Campaigners in Holland are opposing any plans by Germany to introduce EU-wide dog control laws.
The Dutch Platform for the Prevention of Dogbites, an umbrella group of dog welfare organisations is making every effort to convince the Dutch government that any legal action against breeds is immoral, unpractical, unnecessary and has to be replaced with other actions such as education and selective breeding. The Platform is also working on a protest to the German government over their own actions.
A spokesperson for the Platform said: "To support these protests, we kindly ask you to send an email to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org "Please keep in mind that the protestemail contains no more than 5 lines, is sent only once per address and preferably written in German or English. "
LEGAL FUNDING REQUIRED FOR CHALLENGE TO GERMAN DOG LAWS
CAMPAIGNERS IN Germany are now ready to challenge the German Government over its harsh dog control laws through the courts. Gergor Von Dungen, President of the Gesellschaft der Bullterrier-Freunde (Society of Bull terrier Friends) said: "The time has arrived for us to start to bring in complaints to the courts against the legislation at the end of this week. After carefully reading and assessing the different pieces of legislation we collected arguments, submissions and statistics and are now ready to proceed with our legal chgallenge against the German Government.
"Our combined group comprising the Gesellschaft der Bullterrier-Freunde, Club für Molosser, American Staffordshire Terrier Club have spent amost 10 years oganizing the restistence against the so called "fighting dog legislations". We founded the Aktion für bedrohte Hunderassen (Initiative For Threatened Dogbreeds). Aproximately 28 out of 30 cases we won. I'm sure that this battle now will be the hardest one: freedom or death. We have engaged top attorneys to represent us dog owners. The problem is: All trials will be expensive. that means: We need money.
"Dear friends of the discriminated breeds, please help us. Collect money, that's the only way to support us and to support to fight the laws which may sperad to other countries. All breeds will ultimately be affected, make no mistake about that. Please help us if you can."
SBT BREED COUNCIL MAKE HEADWAY IN OPPOSITION TO EU LAWS|
THE STAFFORDSHIRE Bull Terrier Breed Council have been working hard to oppose the German Government's plans for EU-wide legislation to ban Staffordshire Bull Terriers alongside AmStaffs and Pit Bull Terriers.
Several Staffordshire Clubs have organised leaflets and posters detailing the planned laws and have met with strong support from dog owners of all breeds.
Davy Levy, the Kennel Club Liaison Officer for the SBT Breed Council told OUR DOGS: "When German politicians tell you that 'the thousands of e-mails and letters we are receiving will have no effect', you can be sure that they are having an effect! German TV has now reported the uproar in the UK, USA, France and Canada and at least one political party has now agreed to meet with dog owners in Germany. It may not be all that we need but at least there is finally beginning to be some sense returning."
Levy adds that the UK charities and animal groups such as the Kennel Club (KC), British Veterinary Association (BVA) and National Canine Defence League (NCDL) have been prominently active in continuing to oppose this legislation and he understands that the KC have arranged for questions to be asked in the House of Commons.
"I have been assured that the KC's actions have the FULL SUPPORT of the General Committee and they must be congratulated for their efforts. Hopefully the RSPCA will soon feel it right to join the campaign to protect dogs everywhere." says Levy. "The KC also wrote to every breed club and council in the UK last week urging them to take positive action over the German legislation. Owners of many breeds have contacted me including Rottweilers, Bull Mastiffs, Border Collies, Boston Terrier and Dobermans. National Terrier, one of the premier Championship Show associations, has posted sample letters and a very comprehensive contact list on their web site (www.nationalterrier.co.uk). It is very gratifying to find so much widespread support from every part of the canine world."
Meanwhile, British MPs and MEPs are also playing their part. Levy says that up to 35 MEPs who have taken positive action in terms of letters to other European partners, the German authorities and European Parliament. "Even the Home Office has indicated that the Government would be very unlikely indeed to accept the German proposals," says Levy, " Obviously the Home Office deals with the DDA legislation within the UK and has indicated that they do not wish to see any further legislation in this area within the UK. However, dog owners should remain aware that the existing legislation passed in 1991 permits the Home Secretary to merely stand up in the House of Commons and name a breed as being dangerous for it to be affected by the DDA. There is no need for any vote. That is why I feel it remains imperative that we keep the MPs aware of the true Staffordshire Bull Terriers rightful place as one of the most popular pet dogs in the UK."
Aside from the specialist canine press.the National Press has shown little interest in the anti-dog legislation. With the honourable exceptions of The Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and BBC Radio's "Today" programme there has been little mention with editors claiming that this is a "minority interest" of minimal news value. Again, it is only the volumes of letters and e-mails which will encourage them to think of this in terms of the 6.7 million dogs in the UK and the sizeable segment of the population that will be affected by any imposed culling of family pets.
However, Dave Levy urges a note of caution: "It is not all 'good news' however. There is a report that Luxembourg has tried to have the German legislation discussed at a recent European Parliamentary meeting. Although this attempt was rejected they intend to re-introduce the subject at another meeting in September. I shall be writing for clarification of their position, not least because on 3rd July the Luxembourg Ambassador' assistant wrote to me 'we are unable to confirm whether a legislation will be brought forward or not'. It seems that they have decided with amazing speed. How many more countries will support their daft ideas? We need to remain vigilant for the sake of dogs in the UK."
Copyright (©) Nick Mays/OUR DOGS 2000