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Deutsche Polizei article

"KILLERS OUT OF CONTROL... WHO MURDER, THREATEN AND TEAR APART..." "Fear of Biting Beasts", "Killer Fighting Dogs Rampaging through Germany" ..and similarly captioned tirades of the last weeks by tabloids and formerly respectable dailies and weeklies all have hit the same gutter level now. Numerous journalists and moderators are agitating and stirring up emotions, indiscriminately mixing emotionalism with facts, and demanding in unison that all "killer beasts" be rooted out, sterilized, killed or incarcerated. All dogs labeled as killers and their offspring are now characterized as "devil dogs". This includes breeds with spotless reputations for merely being of a certain height or weight, which are now accused of being potentially unpredictable, dangerous weapons in the hands of their owners

Leading politicians are jumping into this debate for the main purpose of self-aggrandizement and enhancing their personal stature and agenda bypromising immediate help in dealing with “The Problem”: through rash enactment of new laws and regulations.

For thoughtful people, the hysteria caused by these events, which has unleashed a country-wide rage, is inexplicable. This suggests that the artificially created fever pitch of emotions by the media and politicians is based on far deeper and darker reasons. In the present climate, which is marked by great dissatisfaction of many citizens with the conduct of politicians with regard to social and labor market problems, it appears to be a politically motivated tactic to divert attention from the real problems and channel the public's frustration away from the actual issues toward a new "enemy" all can agree on, i.e., "fighting dogs", no matter how arbitrarily that label is affixed. This is meant to illustrate the willingness and ability of elected officials to deal with real problems. Dogs then, become easy targets to redirect hatred and frustrations, because any tragic incident, coupled with an innate fear in some people of the "wolf descendants" of long ago, are used to inflame as are the pictures of dog teeth bared, ready to attack and mutilate. Thus a collective outcry for protection of humans, particularly children, makes sense, yet leaves a rational person wondering why there was no similar outcry and demand for new laws when shortly after young Volkan's deaths, six other children from different families were murdered in their sleep by their fathers in the wake of divorce battles. This is by no means a rare occurrence anymore, nor are the gruesome murders of foreign-born citizens in their new homeland.

Another suspect and irresponsible aspect of the current anti-dog regulations is that they are touted as intended to protect people and particularly children, rather than as a means of mass-control of dog owners and the extermination of dangerous dogs. Considering that, according to official statistics, last year 318 children were killed in traffic accidents and another 48,838 injured, why does this not rate more serious regulation of reckless drivers? To direct regulatory efforts against dogs instead of the criminal conduct of irresponsible owners of aggressive dogs, is equivalent to lawmakers taking away the car of a reckless driver so he cannot endanger someone else in the future with that particular vehicle.

Unfortunately, in the inflammatory reporting of bite incidents, it is rarely mentioned that, as in the Hamburg case, aggressive dogs act usually at the command or instigation of their owners. Thus we have bad regulations with terrible consequences, ignoring the problem at the other end of the leash.

The death of little Volkan and the often shown pictures of terribly mutilated bodies attributed to dog attacks, are merely the end result of a long-standing, sad historical development.

There can be no argument that part of the breeds now designated as killer dogs -- Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers -- have served humans for many decades as watch and protection dogs, scent hounds, etc. Any of these breeds in humane and caring hands should surely be protected by law rather than discriminated against. Furthermore it should be remembered that veterinarians, humane organization experts and serious breeders, while encouraging development of protective traits, have at the same time, long demanded stricter import criteria for dogs of all breeds to prevent danger to the public and police in pursuit of their duty in house searches, etc. On the other hand, it is a well-known fact that for some time fighting dogs have been obtained by a subculture of young, unemployed German and foreign men, especially in large cities, who acquire them as a status symbol and weapon. Until recently dog advertisements have even contained brags about the aggressiveness bred into certain dogs, while the Police and those in charge of overseeing the importation and sale of dogs were either too understaffed to deal with this situation, or lacked the technical know-how to do so.

As soon as various breeds were designated by the authorities as fighting dogs, communities all over the country rushed in with new taxes for the designated breeds. This most welcome increase in tax monies had, however, the opposite effect from the stated intent. Since, especially in large cities, many dogs of the effected breeds are either not registered or their owners are on welfare, the new taxation merely led to greater discrimination against responsible owners and their dogs, and spread great fear through the population. Many of those subject to the high new taxes could no longer afford to keep their pets licensed and therefore turned them over to already overloaded pounds, while others were forced to relinquish their pets under pressure from landlords and neighbors.

Owners of actual fighters, outside the mainstream, on the other hand, are actually viewing the special taxes as a welcome increase in prestige among their peers, entitling them to anti-social behavior and rights. At this time, officials within the police and dog law enforcement agencies are truly confounded by the puzzle of how to interpret the new "Fighting Dog" regulations in a meaningful manner, for all indications are that they cannot reach their goals due to any number of factors:

  1. Who, within the regulatory agencies is qualified to identify mixed breeds without error, especially if an owner cannot produce a pedigree or has falsified papers?
  2. How do you locate the underground dog population in the “Danger Group 1” category, most of which are not registered/licensed and therefore subject to identification and seizure unless somebody denounces them, which is not too likely within this sub-culture?

In Berlin, these owners of aggressive dogs are lying low right now, waiting "for the storm to pass". Some enhance their standing in the informal fighting dog trading posts by having dogs on hand before rising demand created by the crisis drives up the cost of replacement dogs. Some have already switched to other breeds, for any puppy can be turned vicious when beaten, isolated, mutilated, etc. to force it into abject obedience, thus turning into a deadly weapon.

Some of this element has moved away to isolated areas of Germany where they believe they'll remain undisturbed in breeding and training new fighting dogs. They will also send unscrupulous middlemen with phony papers to pounds to bail out any of their impounded hounds -- which they have reported as missing. Criminal dog owners will steal or buy certificates of harmlessness, pedigrees, and the required "harmless" insignia (plakettes) as they are already doing in Berlin. To them, a muzzle is nothing but a status symbol and their falsely certified dogs are still being openly trained in public parks. To satisfy their blood sport, this has also led to increased theft of cats and small dogs, which are being sacrificed in training these dogs to fight, leaving mutilated pets to be discovered by passersby whose fears of dogs and anger against all dogs is thus fueled.


Recent government acts have turned a child's pet dog, the super-dog of TV shows, the friendly neighborhood pooch into a fearsome beast, out to murder us all. Endless pictures of tooth-baring, threatening dogs with bloodshot eyes, ready to chew through iron bars -- along with pictures of dogs executed, lying next to the body of a dead child, and photos of fear-distorted adult faces -- all serve to frighten children, especially the very young who have no means of distinguishing fact from fiction. It gives them nightmares, panic attacks, phobias against all dogs and may increase their own aggressiveness.

The ensuing insecurity, fanned by deliberate sensationalism leading to panic, creates a constant fear for children, especially in the context of their own parents' fears. It is a well-known fact that children exposed to extreme situations, such as wars and natural disasters, can come through such experiences without harm when they are secure in their parents' protection. However when parents themselves suffer from a high level of anxiety and insecurity, and try to protect their children against all potentially threatening situations, they will find that their children are unable to deal with them in a flexible and sensible manner. Avoidance of fearful situations then, is virtually impossible as children are likely to encounter dogs every day. This will only be reinforced if a frightened child tries to run away, while a dog's natural instinct for the chase kicks in.

Overanxious parents will, at this point, demand that the authorities do something to protect them and eliminate all potential risks from their lives, as for example, shown in increasing demands following the Hamburg incident, to fence all school grounds to make them more secure. Families which suffer from extreme fearfulness just know that their children will become victims of dangerous dogs. And when their children have no real life experience with the majority of dogs which are friendly family members, the psychological damage can be severe and long lasting.

In unstable families or those threatened by dissolution, the externalization of the problem by redirecting if against the neighborhood dogs may diffuse a bad situation temporarily by projecting aggressiveness and lack of control of a disruptive family member upon dogs, which then become substitute targets for fear and anger -- but that certainly does not resolve the real problems.

The trauma inflicted upon children in families with pets who are forced to give them up under the new regulations, either because of neighborhood pressures or because they did not pass the new temperament tests administered under very unrealistic and adverse conditions, is equally if not more traumatic. It takes no great imagination to see the permanent damage to a child's development when a dog it grew up with is being relinquished by its parents to a "dog home" where it will certainly be killed. Most likely this will produce anger, distress and a long-standing guilt feeling, not to mention the rage at parents who are unable to protect a beloved pet from such fate. Such conflicts can turn a normal child into a problem child, requiring special schooling and psychiatric counseling to prevent its feelings from turning anti-social and destructive.

It is highly likely that from now on, families with small children may forego the acquisition of a family dog entirely, which means that their children will grow up without ever knowing the positive influence of a pet to play with or teach them responsibility, respect and socialization.

Human v. Animal Protection

The present hysteria poisons the social climate of our lives by pitting dog haters vs. dog lovers. In our large cities, owners of large dogs dare no longer be out in public during daytime. They are afraid of sudden, irrational hate attacks they may encounter. Even in small communities, they are being spit at, threatened, and cussed out ("why is that killer dog out without a muzzle? Why is that piece of crap not killed off yet?") Their dogs, even if they do not fall within the "forbidden" size and weight range, are readily considered fighting dogs whether they resemble a targeted breed or not, and are likely to get beaten up and worse. In one small town, a bunch of young men ripped the leash of a Staffordshire Terrier from its owner's hands, doused it with gasoline and burned it to death in front of its frantic, helpless owner. Such events lead to long-range trauma, especially for victims of previous violence and assault. Such aggressiveness from fellow citizens is very likely going to deepen previous trauma and destroy a person's life.

The danger of serious incidents increases in the even more aggressive atmosphere of larger cities with a constituency of young disaffected men who own actual fighting dogs and live on the fringe of society. Some undoubtedly suffered early traumatization of their own so are now ready to overreact to the slightest provocation, leading to increasing incidents of unprovoked attacks on dog owners and their pets. In this supercharged atmosphere in the streets, fears and tensions spell permanent danger for dog owners. This escalates into more overt conflict, attacks and confrontations at the slightest excuse.

Many large dogs are taken out only at night to "do their business". At the same time, it turns heretofore tolerant citizens into vigilantes who now call the police far more frequently to deal with imaginary nuisances, such as dogs playing in a park, whom they consider a potential threat to children. Neighborhood disputes are now taken out on dogs, with harmless incidents being blown out of proportion. With diminished trust and communication between the people, there is increasing defamation, complaints filed and even mobbing, and many people who are accused of harboring a dangerous dog are now being evicted from their homes.

(Para. 2, Animal Protection Laws)

Aside from the pain and suffering inflicted on dog owners these days, the laws of the land addressing the well-being of our animal companions are falling victim to ill-considered new regulations within the various regions, and appear to be forgotten in the rush of unscientific and unsound "solutions" to the so-called problem.

Even the highest ranking representatives of our political parties who claim to be representing nature and environmental concerns as their agenda, have propounded radical measures in violation of nature's sensible and intricate system within which every living thing is entitled to protection. Once violated, such willful interference hurts a great many more creatures than those which are supposed to be the actual target.

The hastily drafted new regulations ignore important sections of the exiting animal protection laws:

Wolfgang Apel, Head of the German Animal Protection Agency, asks what will happen to the 50,000 impounded dogs, already relinquished, impounded as "fighting dogs", or picked up as strays -- large dogs, mixed breeds, who are already vegetating in the country's 500 totally overcrowded facilities? Most of these dog homes refuse to be turned into slaughter-houses. Even the drafters of the new regulations know very well that they must obey the animal protection laws which prohibit the killing of all dogs who do not pass the so-called personality tests.

Furthermore, they did not take into consideration the many factors which would unfavorably influence the results of these tests which are just in the draft stage without any meaningful guidelines for actual application. Frequently, travel to the test site is very long, such as in Niedersachsen where people have to travel with their dogs to the Veterinary School in Hanover. The long trip through strange surroundings causes much stress for a dog, heightened by the owner's fear, anger, apprehension and sorrow in such a threatening situation as the possible loss of their dog if it fails to pass the test. Surely, under such stressful and unfavorable circumstances, it stands to reason that many dogs will not show the stability they would exhibit under normal conditions.

In addition, the steep cost of this test arouses suspicions that it is designed to be used as an arbitrary selection criteria to eliminate as many dogs as possible. What then happens to a dog who does not pass this personality test? Who reimburses the owner whose dog is taken from him without concrete proof that it is, in fact, dangerous?

The overcrowded pounds are no longer capable of meeting their mission of accepting all these rejected dogs. And even though there is talk about those dogs being made available for adoption, there are no provisions in the new regulations which would clarify whether and to whom impounded dogs may be released. The confusion is further compounded by the difference among the provinces as to which breeds are dangerous and which are not, i.e., in some areas Rottweilers and Dobermans are designated as fighting dogs, but not in others. Today its Pittbulls, tomorrow Retrievers.

Between the current agitation and hysteria, anxiety and animosity, it is hard to imagine that there will soon be friendly cooperation once again after all the havoc caused by the irresponsible politicians and their disparate agendas. A bitter aftertaste is bound to remain for a long time from here on out, and the very real fear is that if the target population changes under the pressure of political tensions caused by the current situation, other minorities will become targets of collective aggression.

For all these reasons, it is imperative that we must return to an objective, calm and rational approach to "the problem". It is important to realize that people and animals must be better protected against truly aggressive dogs, for every dog is potentially dangerous in the wrong hands and can be turned into a weapon. However, instead of mass killings of entire breeds, new laws must be designed by experts in this area, and enactment of new laws must be phased in with a longer, more reasonable lead time to avoid further damages through the senseless panic which now rules.

The German Veterinarians and the Animal Protection agencies demand the following:

That instead of categorizing animals on "Kampfhund" lists, breed-neutral individual assessments must be set up along with testing for responsible dog ownership, counseling needs to be provided for problem animals, and a dog keeping license must be instituted. Personality tests must be conducted by qualified examiners and be breed-specific, along with the closing of any loopholes in the existing laws governing the breeding, maintenance and importation of dogs into this country. Equally important are educational programs in schools, starting with Kindergarten, to lay the groundwork for meaningful and safe dog/man relationships. Stronger measures should be undertaken to integrate unemployed and foreign juveniles in all regions, to alleviate their need to use dogs as a substitute for low self-esteem.

In the Hamburg sector of Wilhelmsburg, citizens -- half of which are foreign-born -- decided after Volkan's death not to seek revenge or recriminations against the guilty parties and instead to institute greater efforts to integrate at risk /alienated youths.

"Deutsche Polizei", Gewerkschaftszeitung, August 2000