(Updated 10/02/01)

Czechoslovakian dog owners fight back

AS REPORTED last week, the Czech Government is set to jump on the BSL bandwagon and implement draconian laws banning the keeping of certain dog breeds and imposing harsh restrictions on the ownership of others, writes Nick Mays.


The proposed laws penalise all dogs over one metre (three feet) in height as being ‘dangerous’, and has led to a campaign organised by dog enthusiasts Katerina & Petr Fridrich under the banner “One Meter” (sic).


As has been the case in Germany, the media seem to have sided with the anti-dog politicians and have portrayed a number of sensationalist anti-dog stories. Petr Fridrich told OUR DOGS: “The Czech media don’t want to be at our side. Many members of Parliament don’t like dogs. We need a strong pro-dog lobby in the Czech Parliament and we want to get a good law passed, not a bad law such has been used in Germany and elsewhere.


“We are appealing to dog owners in Britain and around the world to help us in our fight, and to sign our petitions, and add their voices to the protests against these laws.”


Nick Mays comments:


The following is a translation of the carefully drafted, detailed petition against the proposed breed specific dog laws. It may look dauntingly long, but it is well worth reading, as it represents a very intelligent, thoughtful approach by responsible dog owners to the drafting of GOOD laws, which will not only protect society from bad dog owners, but also to benefit the welfare of dogs kept by responsible dog owners.


Perhaps a copy of similar petitions with similar aims should be presented to politicians in every country which advocates BSL - including the British Government who have still to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act.


PETITION - ONE METER


Motto: We have been created and born to protect You and even lay down our lives for You. Please do not allow our extinction as a result of some one’s foolishness, political motif or ignorance!


We, breeders and owners of dog breeds identified as problematical and dangerous, together with the responsible dog owning public, call on the Czech republic with an appeal to their humanity, tolerance, common sense and respect for nature and especially for living animals.


We call on the public for support in our appeal to You, deputies Koristka and Sojdrova, because you are working to create a proposed new law that would govern the ownership of so-called “dangerous” dogs. We also appeal to other Members of Czech parliament to consider very seriously the voices of all parties, before they create an inhuman, senseless and generally useless piece of legislation, which will lead to nothing, but discontent and material as well as emotional damage to a significant part of society.


We chose the petition as a way of addressing You, deputies Zdenek Koristka and Michaela Sojdrova, because the time is running and we cannot think of a faster way to approach You and Your activity. We do it, because we are deeply concerned by Your public statements regarding the above-mentioned bill. We are equally concerned about unobjective, biased reporting in the media about your campaign. We feel that the bill, your public appearances and the media campaign are highly prejudiced, unobjective. Even though the law concerns us, we have not been invited to take part in it. Your approach to the issue suggests nothing but mechanical duplication of insensitive, dully bureaucratic and artificially constructed regulations from some of West European countries, without consideration of traditions and local conditions. Despite your repeated assurances that the prepared legislation is not aimed against specific dog breeds (which is how every public presentation and discussion on the topic starts) we fear that the bill will significantly affect and limit human rights of large group of citizens and will lead into senseless liquidation of afore mentioned dog breeds in our country.


These are our goals:


A sensible legislative arrangement of mutual relations between dog owners and other citizens with defined rights, duties and responsibility of both parties. This legislative norm must define relations people and the community and municipality. It must be simple, unambiguous, understandable and applicable in normal life situations.


We want to link the new law to existing legislation, which will enable us to minimise and simplify it, as many situations addressed by the current bill proposal are already well taken care of, by other laws.


Prevention of unfair and hysterical media campaigns aimed against certain dog breeds in a way which can be classified as a crime of spreading false alarming news. Such campaigns do not contribute to reasonable definition of relations between dog owners and other society.


We strive for enlightenment through information - both for dog breeders and the rest of the society and for the initiation of critical, but knowledgeable discussion. We want the public to be informed about every dog-related incident in an objective, unemotional manner, including proper analysis of the case and responsibilities and description of what measures should be taken to prevent a similar incident in the future.


We want to teach people tolerance and respect for rights of others as well as responsibility and knowledge that violation of these rights means the perpetrator will be held responsible before the law.


We demand consistent application of the above mentioned norms of coexistence and behaviour even in areas where are similar norms are traditionally underestimated and belittled.


WHAT WE DO NOT WANT AND WHAT WE REJECT IN PRINCIPLE


We reject any kind of discrimination against any particular dog breed and its owners. No dog breed should be marked as “fighting”, “dangerous” or even a kind of “weapon”, aimed at other human being. Defining a dog breed as “fighting” or “dangerous” is a biological nonsense, created for commercial purposes by sensation-seeking journalists. To our great sorrow, this term is frequently used not only by media, but also by some veterinarians, politicians, statesmen and also dog owners. We want to ban use of this terminology. It is disinformative, misleading and racist in a way comparable to Nuremberg laws of the Nazi Third Reich. No dog breed has been created to fight, hurt or kill humans (at least in the Modern Era).


In the “Justification” part of the proposed law, You stress the “liberal character of Your concept, similar to the German system”. However, we do not understand, what is “liberal” about the German law, which leaves dead dog bodies in its wake (see the horrible first hand report about the official execution of family dog Baxter at the internet address http://www.schaeferhunde-vom-schwarzen ghazal.de/links/baxter.htm), r.htm). (Also reported previously in OUR DOGS).


In the law, you describe “only” 9 dog breeds as “dangerous”. These are: American Staffordshire Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Fila Brasileiro, Rottweiller, Dobermann, Pit Bull Terrier and their crossbreeds. The ad-hoc and groundless selection of is proof of your ignorance and lack of competence in this field. The number of inaccuracies stated in the law proposal is yet another proof of your incompetence.


We ask You: who is Your professional consultant and why don’t You respect even the standpoint of Czech Veterinarian Chamber, who is our highest veterinary authority, who denounced your “dangerous - special-other” classification of dog breeds as nonsensical? What valid European Community Laws correspond with Your proposal as You declare?


What is Your motivation? Where do You get the courage to present to Parliament a bill which will affect lives and basic rights of tens of thousands of citizens, while You lack even an elementary knowledge of the topic and while You even failed to open a professional discussion with the expert community?


Let us not repeat mistakes of others. Let us not copy thoughtlessly laws of other countries just because they are located to the West of our country. Their legislation is no solution of the problem. It is just an attempt to pick up votes and distract attention from other, more pressing issues.


We do not want to disregard criticism aimed against irresponsible dog owner.


We do not want to disregard rightful calls for corresponding legislation.


We also do not want to detract relevance of problem by declaring, that the afore mentioned dog breeds are not potentially dangerous to humans. The Dog is a predator and despite thousands of years of domestication, it still remains a carnivorous predator. For this reason, every dog can be potentially dangerous for a human under certain circumstances. Every dog is capable of harming a human and logically speaking, the potential danger grows with the size, strength a power of the dog.


However, all statistics place incidents involving the afore mentioned “dangerous” dog breeds far behind German Shepherds, Cocker spaniels and even Dachshunds. In light of this, it seems that opinion of Czech Veterinarian Chamber is more objective than yours. Undoubtedly, the veterinarians are professional par-excellence and certainly know, why they say it is “practically impossible to define certain dog breeds as fighting, aggressive or dangerous”.
We principally reject the intended order to use lead and muzzle on all public areas. The proposed regulation robs dogs of practising free natural movement. To keep a dog under such conditions means that dog owners will commit the crime of animal maltreatment. Your regulation is reasonable and logical in public transportation, at crowded public areas and everywhere where there is physical contact of people with dogs - especially the larger breeds. However, it is unnecessary to demand under penalty the use of lead and muzzle at lonely places, pathways etc. On such places, the owner should be held fully responsible for ensuring the dog will not cause any damage. However, he should be given the freedom to decide on what measures he will use (based on the circumstances, nature of the dog, level of training and physical dispositions of the dog leading person). A perfectly trained dog will be under its master’s control in any situation without any lead and muzzle.


It is absolutely unnecessary to order any administrative regulation and appointment of officially licensed trainers.
We protest, with all our hearts, against any intention to limit breeding or even to liquidate any dog breeds. Raising of the proposed taxes and insurance duty without set upper limit can lead into heavy financial difficulties of some breeders and owners. Should the prepared law result in anything comparable with “extinction law”, we will view the bill as contradicting the Constitution, in which case we will appeal against it to the Czech Constitutional Court. Furthermore, according to Charter of Human Rights, a citizen’s privacy may not be violated, which means that controlling dog owners, whether they respect the law or not would mean violation of the charter. In it’s consequence, the law would not affect those who should be affected the most - irresponsible dog owners, who have respect for no law and who should definitely not own a dog.


WHAT WE WANT AND PRINCIPALLY SUPPORT


We want the legislation to treat all dog breeds equally. The law must not differentiate between officially determined ‘disapproved’ dog breeds and the rest.


We acknowledge the necessity and obligation to mark every dog of any breed (including cross breeds) when they reach certain age (for instance 6 months). At first, this could be done by tattoo, later, when the technology allows, by microchips.


We acknowledge that it is a dog owner’s duty to have his dog insured against damage caused to other citizens (even unintentional, accidental damage). The height of the insurance fees should reflect the status of dog breeding and keeping. However, its maximum level should be set to prevent the insurance companies from charging dog owners unreasonably high premiums.


We support increased penalties in cases where dog owners violate the rules of coexistence with other citizens and through negligence, insufficient control over the dog, insufficient equipment or with intent to violate public order, endanger private property, safety and health of persons, who have made no action to cause the dog to attack.
We also want legal liability for people who cause a dog to attack them or other person after they have intentionally provoked the dog to attack, tortured the dog or approach, manipulate and touch an unknown dog without the dog owner’s approval. The same liability should enforced on people who let loose a secured dog with the owner’s approval, leave a child or other physically incapable person with a dog without supervision, or enter premises guarded by dog while the premises are clearly marked by warning signs, and those who attack the dog owner or his family or endanger his property, in which case it is totally acceptable for the dog to protect the attacked person or his master’s property.


We strongly recommend the possibility of withholding the right to keep a dog from owner, who, through negligence, insufficient supervision, insufficient equipment or through bad intent, allows the dog to cause serious injury or damage or who violated some of the afore mentioned laws (i.e. animal torture). Withholding the right to keep dog should be applicable to all dog owners alike regardless of the dog breed they own. We recommend delegating the decision-making on to municipal authorities, which have good knowledge of the local conditions - but we also recommend strict enforcement of this legislation.


In order to prevent possible misuse of these powers, the affected dog owner should have the right to appeal to a court of law to re-examine his case, while a specialist for the specific breed should be present at the hearing to give an expert opinion on the case.


We stand for control and possible limitations or even ban of breeding establishments, which produce high numbers of dogs purely on a commercial basis, without securing adequate conditions for the animals, and which selectively and intentionally produce aggressive dogs. Such breeders are often a source for future problematic dog owners and should be rightfully criticised.


The right to keep an animal is included in the charter of Human Rights, once again, we appeal to you, good people, help us save unique dog breed with exceptional character. These dogs have been unlucky to attract hatred through an unobjective campaign, which uses the prejudice and fear of ordinary people to achieve hidden goals or satisfaction for a sensationalist media. Should these dogs be exterminated just to increase print run of tabloid newspapers? Or to increase popularity of politicians, who have nothing better to offer society? If you save these dogs, you will save one of th best friends one can possibly have. They have been created for our entertainment and protection. They are even willing to die for their love of us. They deserve our protection.


Keepers and owners of “non-fighting”, safe and yet endangered dog breeds. We, hereby signed dog owners, dog friends, friends of all other animals and other good people, reject groundless discrimination in any form. We support this petition and appeal on the state authorities to reconsiders their standpoint on the issue of human-dog relations.


*The anti-BSL internet list, DogHolocaust is assisting with the fight against the proposed Czech BSL laws, while the “One Meter” campaign has its own website, which is: http://www.pitbullseden.cz/Petice.asp.

Petr and Katrina Fridrich may be e-mailed at: amazonka@volny.cz

 




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