Adverts: 0161 709 4576 - Editorial: 0161 709 4571
Mail Order: 0161 709 4578 - Subs: 0161 709 4575 - Webteam: 0161 709 4567

(Updated 10/4/01)

'Strong arm techniques' alleged as German police arrest elderly owner

GERMAN POLICE officers were accused by anti- BSL campaigners of behaving “like the Gestapo” after they burst into the home of a 63-year-old woman to seize her dog under the laws passed in the State of Hessen and at Federal Government level. When the woman resisted this invasion of her privacy, she was allegedly handcuffed and carried out to a police van under arrest.


Mrs Vera Moc-Rosu, a retired nurse from Hofheim, Hessen, adopted a rescued dog from the animal shelter Fechenheim in September 1999. The dog - a mongrel - said to be a mixture of Dogo Argentino, Labrador and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was the offspring of Frau Moc-Rosu’s niece’s dog and had been put into the shelter by its previous owner for personal reasons.


In 2000, after Hessen introduced its stringent breed-specific ‘Fighting Dog’ laws, the dog - named ‘Paul’ - had passed a character assessment test undertaken by a “Taskforce Man” and long time policeman - supposed to be one of the most stringent dog assessors in Hessen - with flying colours. Paul had never shown any aggression towards people or other dogs, and was well cared for by his new owner.


On February 27 at about 1pm Frau Moc-Rosu and her neighbour Frau Scholz went into a nearby field, taking both Paul and Frau Scholz’s dog, a Dogue de Bordeux/Rottweiler cross. During the walk, the two ladies met another woman with an off lead Dachshund, which showed extremely aggressive behaviour towards the two big dogs.


Dominance


As soon as the two male dogs showed signs of “dominance behaviour” towards the smaller dog, Frau Moc-Rosu put her dog on the lead. After this, the two friends had a pleasant chat with the Dachshund’s owner and then they all carried on their way. No biting or further aggression was observed.


In the afternoon Frau Moc-Rosu took her dog out on a further walk, this time with Frau Scholz’s elderly father, whom she nurses as a favour to her friend. When they returned from their walk at about 5pm, they were greeted by the sight of two policemen standing at the door of Frau Moc-Rosu’s flat. The officers informed her that her dog had been reported to the police for a biting incident. Frau Moc-Rosu informed the officers that this was not true and offered witnesses, her dog’s written character test assessment, proof of insurance and its tax disc.


The officers declined this and insisted on a search of her premises, which Frau Moc-Rosu refused after taking legal advice over the phone.


The officers called for backup and at about 8.30pm, eight police officers and the chief of the local authorities in Hofheim, Herr Wilkens, called upon Frau Moc-Rosu and demanded entry to search her home.


Frau Moc-Rosu offered all the paperwork again to Herr Wilkens, she also invited him in so that he could see with his own eyes the peaceful nature of her dog. Herr Wilkens refused this offer and insisted on a police search of the premises by his officers. When Frau Moc-Rosu again refused to allow this, the police unit allegedly pushed past her and stormed her flat, using the recently enacted Federal law which restricts the ‘sanctity of the home’, (currently safeguarded under Paragraph 13 of the German Constitution) for all dog owners.


As Frau Moc-Rosu was resisting the wishes of the police officers to go into the living room where the dog was, the officers handcuffed her and carried her down the stairs, struggling and very upset. The police, who neglected to inform her of her rights, placed her in temporary custody. Frau Moc-Rosu sustained some injuries, which were later confirmed in a written report by her GP as bruises to her arms and elbow.


According to Frau Moc-Rosu one of the policemen called while carrying her downstairs: “You want to bite me? You can get one bump on top.”


Frau Moc-Rosu denies this accusation. Never once did she intend to “bite” a policeman. According to her neighbours who were present, the police acted like Stasi commandos or the Gestapo. The very agitated neighbours who were trying to take the woman’s part were “ordered” back into their flats by the police officers with threats and shouting.


Frau Sholtz’s 80-year-old father took photographs of the incident, but was told by an officer to hand his camera over. Only when he promised there was no film in it he was left alone, but was allegedly threatened with massive repercussions should any photographs come to light later.


The dog, which remained very calm and peaceful throughout the incident, was confiscated in spite of this and taken into the animal shelter. Frau Moc-Rosu was later charged by police for ‘resisting the authority of the state’.
Last week Moc-Rosu and her solicitor attempted to have a meeting with the Chair of Local Authority to clear the matter up. He refused to hand the dog over, pointing out that there was no Certificate of Knowledge, which proves that a dog’s owner has the necessary knowledge and understanding of his or her dog to be allowed to keep it. He added that as soon as she handed the certificate in, he would “think about it again”.


However, Frau Moc-Rosu is caught in the classic ‘Catch 22’ situation, which has grim echoes of the UK’s own 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, when many dogs which were seized from their owners’ homes and held in legal limbo during the 1990s. It is impossible for Frau Moc-Rosu to take the test for a Certificate of Knowledge without her dog, but she cannot get the dog back without the certificate.

Werner Klinger, Chairman of the Hessen FDF Liberal Party and long-time campaigner against the State and Federal Fighting Dog laws expressed his disgust at the alleged incident.

Werner Klinger of the FDP (Liberal Party).

Herr Klinger told OUR DOGS: “I would like to say that in my opinion Frau Moc-Rosu is a well-presented elderly lady who has never in her life got into trouble with the police. The police in Hofheim refuse to give out any information regarding the event.

“Frau Moc-Rosu didn’t know what precisely made up the genetic heritage of her mongrel. Vets and experts, some reporting months apart, differed widely. So Frau Moc-Rosu registered her dog as a mongrel and, as a matter of precaution, had the character test done with the sharpest police expert who stated the animal to be absolutely good-natured.

Unbelievable

“I am not a lawyer, but I think the way the police handled this covers the following breaches of the law: abuse of office, bending the law, pressure, breaking the peace, unlawful incarceration, bodily harm and unlawful confiscation - all that in pursuit of duty, therefore official and it would have to be taken to court.


“This unbelievable scene is, in my personal opinion, a political lever for asking the responsible Minister to resign, which would be Herr Minister of State Volker Bouffier, who has repeatedly asked the public to denounce owners of “suspicious dogs” and has asked the authorities to follow through any suspicious case “without mercy”. What happened here is a direct result of such demands and is out of proportion to the case. If the powers that be don’t distance themselves from this, every dog owner with a listed dog and character test will have to assume that these documents don’t protect him any more from interference by the state through the medium of unpredictable police forces or Chairs of Local Authorities running wild.”


Herr Klinger also points out how the Character Test certificate itself is virtually worthless if a dog is reported to the police: “This scene shows openly how the officials plan to put the new dog laws into practice. A character test won’t protect us if a ‘concerned citizen’ reports the dog, even if there is no reason. One can only imagine what would have happened if Frau Moc-Rosu’s dog had really bitten the Dachshund. Perhaps, like their counterparts in Dortmund a week before, the police would have opened fire on the dog in the flat.”