|GERMAN FIGHTING DOG LAWS UPDATE|
by OUR DOGS Chief Reporter, NICK MAYS
GERMANY'S PLANS FOR EU-WIDE LEGISLATION SLAPPED DOWN The German Government's plans to introduce an EU-wide law against so-called 'fighting dogs' via the European Parliament were slapped down late last week in a move which will undoubtedly cause major embarassment to the German administration. A discussion on dangerous dogs was raised by the German representative during a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Thursday September 28th. The item was not on the meeting's agenda but sneaked in under 'Any Other Business' at the end of the meeting. Earlier, German State Secretary for the Interior Hansjoerg Geiger said the EU should now adopt an EU-wide ban on the breeding, import and trade of "fighting dogs."
"A national ban is useless if you can import dogs, which we only find out about when they have mauled people," he told a news conference during a meeting of EU interior ministers.
Representatives of Germany called on the Council to support Germany in its call on the European Commission to propose legal instruments that would make it possible to curb or curtail the imports of 'dangerous dogs' into EU states and control the breeding of such dogs in EU states.
In the event, the item was dealt with in less than 15 minutes. The German delegation read out their statement of one and a half pages. There was no discussion as no other national delegation commented either for or against the item except for Britain who immediately opposed the plan, saying it was not up to the EU to say whether EU countries should ban the dogs or not.
Antonio Vittorini, the Commissioner responsible, suggested to the Commission that this item would be covered by subsidiarity - eg, by national / regional competence and co-operation, and not by the EU directly. However, it was felt that it was beyond the ability for the EU to legislate in this matter, and reference was drawn to the fact that the issue would be the responsibility of the Internal Market and not that of the Justice/Home Affairs Council. In future the Internal Market Council would therefore be responsible.
The Commission would ask officials at the Internal Market whether they can foresee a legal basis for such legislation under the EC Treaty.
The Chairperson, E Guigou, closed the item by stating that the Council "took note" of the German initiative.
In effect, the whole German initiative has been effectively placed on the back-burner and will be caught up -if not lost - in the lengthy political process.
News of the Council's decision was largely greeted with enthusiasm and relief by campaigners around the world, although some urged a note of caution against premature celebration, as the proposal was merely delayed, not completely lost.
MARIANNE SEPTIER, a leading campaigner from France, who has opposed both the French and German 'dangerous dogs' laws said: "European Ministers denied so far Germany the right to rule the whole of Europe by extending their own blind and nonsensical war against dogs and their owners to every country. German Courts are even suspending these laws for being illegal. Now, German Government starting a new antidog law: A law such that they even need to change their constitution to allow it to come in application !..... "What Government would change a constitution 'just' for getting rid of dogs ? Why such a blind determination, denying stubbornly even experts, owners, and lawyers' advice? Why this urgent need to use "Breeds" words, and being able to enter at any time a citizen home and search everywhere, just because he possess a dog?
"Looking back in my history book, I find the same litterature, almost word by word....only the word 'dog' seems new to me. What is the real aim of those German ministers?"
DAVE LEVY, Knenel Club Liasison Officer for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Bred Council commented: "The SBT Breed Council remains concerned that the German authorities, not content with restricting the freedom of their own citizens, continues to try and spread this nonsense to other European nations. We wholeheartedly support the opinion and actions of the British and other governments in opposing these laws.
"There is no justification for treating dog owners as some sort of 'under class' and the whole concept of suspending parts of the German constitution with respect to these laws (but not in the case of murderers, rapists, paedophiles and neo-nazi atrocities) demonstrates the untenable position to which [Vice Chancellor] Herr Schily has reduced his Government colleagues."
JULIETTE GLASS of the FURY DEFENCE FUND declared: "We in the FDF have fought against the injustices of the UK Dangerous Dogs Act and continue to do so. We wholeheartdely oppose the German States' own 'Fighting Dog' laws which are every bit as unjust and cruel as the DDA. The last thing any of us want is to see the European Parliament impose further draconian Breed Specific dog laws on us based on the German model. Whilst we are pleased that the German Government's attempts to get these laws introduced has been rebuffed, we're certain that is not the end of the matter. We must remain cautious and continue the fight against Bred Specific legislation everywhere. So lobby your MPs, MEPS, lobby the British and German Governments. Keep up the pressure!"
PHIL BUCKLEY, Press officer for the Kennel Club said: "Whereas this is a very significant rebuff for the German Government, it falls to all responsible dog owners everywhere to remain vigilant against such legislation being imposed via Europe.
"The Kennel Club's opposition to Breed Specific legislation remains rock solid and we will continue to oppose the German 'Fighting Dog' laws at all levels."
MIN INCHES, an ordinary dog owner from Perth, Scotland was short and to the point: "I am horrified to find that the ridiculous proposed new laws about dangerous dogs should even be contemplated by the EU.
It has been proved that specific breed laws DO NOT WORK. You only have to look to the UK to prove that. Convict criminal owners who teach their dogs to fight."
JO ELLEN WOLF, US Coordinator, North American Border Terrier Welfare, Georgia, USA told OUR DOGS: "Thursday's decision by the EU ministry to review the legalities of spreading breed-specific law via an EU law may have been a very polite thumbing of the nose at the German government, as well as a nifty delaying tactic.
"Anything that works to keep each nation in the EU free to make it's own decisions about the content of "dog laws" is good. Here in the US, we fight breed-specific laws on the local level, where each dog owner can influence the lawmakers, face-to-face. We have been able to join an international 'in your face' effort, and aren't about to quit now, with victory hovering!"
JOANNA MASON of Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue East & West Sussex, who herself has successfully raised over 10,000 signatures in petition against the German dog laws a leading campaigner against the laws observed; "Yes, this is a significant victory, but we must not be complacent. Many German States still have vicious anti-dog laws, and the German Government are still going to try to force an EU-wide ban through if they can. It is up to responsible dog owners in all countries to oppose this legislation. Breed Specific Legislation does not work, as we have seen here in ther UK with our own Dangerous Dogs Act. We must remain vigilant against any further German attempts to force such laws through the EU. The fight goes on!"
OVER 11,000 SIGNATURES FOR BSL PETITION
A LEADING campaigner against Breed Specific legislation in the UK and Germany last week closed the petition she single-handedly launched just over two months ago in opposition to the German Government's 'Fighting Dog' laws, having garnered 11,500 signatures from dog owners nation-wide.
Joanna Mason, of Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue East & West Sussex initiated the appeal when the full extent of atrocities against dogs and their owners in Germany became clear. Mrs Mason was also vehemently against any such laws being imposed upon Britain via the European Parliament, as planned by German Vice Chancellor Otto Schilly.
Mrs Mason divided the petition up into five parts, sending 2,500 signatures to veteran Labour parliamentarian Roy Hattersley, who owns a famous Staffordshire Bull terrier cross named 'Spike', 2,500 to the German Embassy in London, 2,500 direct to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, together with several photographs of Staffords playing quite happily with children, 3,000 to MEP Theresa Villiers, who opposes any German imposed BSL, and 1,000 to veteran Labour MP Tony Benn.Mrs Mason also sent letters to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary Jack Straw, outlining her outrage at the German Government's actions.
"I can't thank everybody enough for all their support," Mrs Mason told OUR DOGS early this week. "I was overwhelmed by the response. The support doesn't just come from Staffie owners, it comes from owners of all dog breeds, who all far the same thing; a beefed-up, European Dangerous Dogs Act." Mrs Mason explained that she had received "glowing" letters of support from Tony Benn and Roy Hattersley, with positive support from Theresa Villiers. "I had a woffley response from the German Embassy, which basically told me to mind my own business," chuckles Mrs Mason, "and I had no response whatsoever from Chancellor Schroeder, which just underlines how arrogant the man is. I even sent him lots of photographs of Staffies and children to underline my point that they are not dangerous dogs, but I suppose there's none so blind as those who will not see. I have not yet had a response from Tony Blair or Jack Straw, but hope springs eternal."
The attitude of London South MEP Richard Balfe was the subject of Mrs Mason's ire in her letter to the Prime Minister, enclosing a clipping from OUR DOGS newspaper in which Mr Balfe said that staffords "killed children" and described the owners of Staffords as "thugs". "I am extremely grateful to everybody who supported my petition, and to OUR DOGS for publicising it so prominently. We mustn't rest on our laurels, even though Germany has had its plans for European legislation dismissed for now," adds Mrs Mason. "As ever, the fight must go on."
Joanna Mason's letter to the Prime Minister, the Rt.Hon. Tony Blair:
Dear Mr Blair,
This letter will be short.
There are 250,000 Staffordshire Bull Terriers in this country. They are considered to be a trustworthy companion animal. Your record, sir, on animal welfare falls short of your early promises, so I hope we do not need to fall into the new EU trap of a proposed Dangerous Dogs directive. I am very upset and insulted by the way your Labour MEP and MP for 6 million voters Mr R Balfe finds it easy to be impolite (see enclosed cutting) A quick look at his dictionary could enlighten him with reference to the meaning of the word "thug".
At the age of 76, a widow of a Lieutenant Paymaster in the RN during World War Two, I resent strongly and object to this MEP's outburst and bad manners.
I have no more to say except now, an ex-Labour voter, I remain,
Joanna Mason (Mrs)
Copyright (©) Nick Mays/OUR DOGS 2000