Germany Bans Breeds, Reactions Evoke Holocaust Memories
By: Patti Strand Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation |
In the wake of two deadly attacks by dogs in the last three months, German state governments have banned or restricted more than three dozens breeds of dogs.
In late April, an old woman was killed by a Rottweiler. In late June, a six-year-old boy was mauled to death by two dogs identified as an American Staffordshire Terrier and a Pit Bull Terrier. In the latter case, both of the dogs were illegally off-leash and one of the dogs and the dog owner had a record. The Pit Bull had bitten previously but was not wearing the required muzzle in public, and the dog owner had 17 convictions for robbery, dog fighting, and other crimes.
The dogs jumped a fence into a schoolyard to attack the boy in front of other children. Our Dogs, a canine newspaper in England, reported that neighbors had called police several times about the dogs with claims the owner trained them for aggression and fighting, but the police did not take action.
Newspapers featured the attack and called for breed-specific bans on aggressive dogs. Laws were quickly proposed to ban sale, breeding, or importation of Bull and Terrier breeds, and stories about 'killer breeds' stirred people into a frenzy. Nick Mays wrote in Our Dogs that dogs and dog owners have been attacked in the streets, and various reports on the "dog holocaust" mailing list  cited personal stories of harassment, threats, and assault.
The situation is fluid and confusing. Various jurisdictions in Germany apparently have passed breed bans and restrictions affecting more than three dozen breeds of dogs divided into three categories, and the Internet is buzzing with claims, contradictions, and frightening accounts of dogs kicked, beaten, and poisoned and dog owners harassed, jostled, and threatened.
The situation has focused national anger against Turks and other foreign residents who frequently own dogs of the banned and restricted breeds and brings comparisons with the early days of the Nazi regime in Germany, a time when people were targeted for specious reasons and made scapegoats for tyranny. Mays of Our Dogs compared the vendetta against breeds and owners with Kristelnacht, a night when Nazi sympathisers destroyed property belonging to Jews, and many Internet messages from Germany echo his assessment of the anti-breed hysteria.
Laws differ in Germany's 16 states, but in Hesse, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine - Westphalia, they contain some version of the following provisions:
Category I dogs- dangerous breeds that cannot be imported, bred, or sold - includes the American Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiliero, Roman Fighting Dog , Chinese Fighting Dog, Bandog, and Tosa Inu. These dogs must be registered and sterilized.
Category II dogs - potentially dangerous dogs that can be owned, imported, bred, and sold if they pass a temperament test and are free of aggressive actions for three years - include Akbash, Briard, Beauceron, Bullmastiff, Doberman, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma, Pyrenean Mountain Dog (our Great Pyrenees), Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Tibetan Mastiff, and more than 15 other breeds that are virtually unknown in the US.
Category III dogs - Those dogs that weigh more than 20 kilos (44 pounds) or are taller than 40 centimeters (15.75 inches). These dogs must be on a leash in developed areas and will be moved to Category II if they show aggression.
According to some stories, owners of banned breeds are required to place a red banner on their doors to identify their premises as harboring one of these breeds; dogs are being abandoned in the streets and killed by the dozens in animal shelters; and licenses to keep banned breeds cost $600-1000 in US dollars.
The temperament test given to the dogs lasts about three hours According to an eye-witness report posted on the Internet.  It includes an assessment of the dog's attitude towards other dogs and people and to stimuli that startle (an umbrella opening, a mock attack), and about an hour of instruction to dog owners.
Germany's VDH - the German Kennel Club - will conduct the temperament evaluations of the dogs in some areas, and The Kennel Club in Britain has written to FCI and to German Chancellor Schroeder in opposition to the sweeping bans and controls on these breeds.
"We have now spoken to dozens of worried parties, including German dog owners, who feel that this situation is spiraling out of control, largely due to media hysteria and the determination of Government Ministers to ensure these breeds are effectively phased out," wrote Roger French, chief executive of The Kennel Club, to Schroeder on June 30. 
"Our External Affaires Department has been contacted on a number of occasions over the past week by German television companies, who would appear to be of the view that these dogs are a liability and should be destroyed as quickly as possible."
Dog owners have started world-wide protests promoted on mailing lists and websites on the Internet that range from boycotts on products made by German companies and German tourism to a campaign to display red and black ribbons in sympathy with the banned dogs and their owners and to draw attention to the situation in that country.
France has recently restricted pit bull dogs and is considering further breed controls, and there is also talk of expanding Germany's breed bans and restrictions to all the countries of the European Union.
The original ban in Germany was proposed by a member of the Green Party, an organization with strong ties to animal rights and environmental causes. The 12-point platform [4} commonly called the animal rights agenda was originally drafted for inclusion into the 1987 US Green platform. The Greens are gaining notice in the US; Ralph Nader is getting some press coverage as the party candidate for President this year.
NAIA deplores actions taken against dogs simply because of their breed or mix. Communities do have a responsibility to enact and enforce laws that protect residents from dangerous or vicious animals. On the other hand dog owners have a right to own and enjoy dogs as pets when they raise, train and socialize their dogs appropriately and comply with all public safety laws.
We believe that responsible dog ownership is the key: Experience has shown that when laws are reasonable and dog owners take their obligations seriously, fear subsides, confrontations diminish, and the rights of both dog owners and their neighbors remain protected.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |