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(Updated 18/4/01)

A 'Driving Licence' for dogs!

As many European countries - including the UK - pursue repressive dog control laws based on a dog's breed (Breed Specific legislation or BSL), Sweden is adopting a radically different approach with a law which not only recognises that the majority of dog-related problems are due to bad owners, but which also tackles the problem 'at source'.

In future, anybody wishing to obtain a dog will have to attend 'Dog School' and sit exams to prove that they are capable of caring for a dog properly, after which they will be granted a special 'Dog Driving Licence' and only then will they be allowed to own a dog.

The new law was unveiled this week by Swedish Agriculture Minister Margarita Winberg, as part of the Government's new 'Happier Animals' legislation, which contains proposals for the better, ethical treatment of animals.

Welfare

Minister Winberg also stated that she wishes to see the Government appoint an 'Animal Ombudsman' to look after the welfare and treatment of all companion animals in Sweden.

Amongst the 'Happier Animals' proposals are a better life for caged pets, which will specify larger minimum cage dimensions for smaller animals and birds.

Ms Winberg said that she wished to see far better standards of care from dog and cat owners nationwide, as in recent years there has been a growing problem with stray cats and vicious dogs, whereas twenty years ago, such problems were virtually unheard of in Sweden.

Katherine Lindqvist, President of the biggest animal welfare organisation Djurens' Ratt welcomed the Government's proposals, especially those for the 'dog driving licence', saying: "The suggestion is that anyone who wants to get a dog has to attend a special dog school. There they will undergo a series of practical and theory lessons on all aspects of dog ownership and training. After this, they will have to pass a test to prove that they are a responsible owner and only then will they be granted a licence to enable them to own a dog.

Problems

"Dogs only become aggressive due to their owners not knowing enough about their care. Hopefully, the new 'driving licence' for dogs will prevent such problems in future."

The proposals have gained a massive thumbs-up throughout Sweden. An internet poll conducted by the Expressen newspaper showed that over 80% of citizens - including existing dog owners - felt that the 'dog driving licence' was a good idea.