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(Updated 30/01/01)

'German Dog Laws Update'

Schröder under fire after court ruling

FOLLOWING LAST week’s court ruling regarding the owner of the Pit Bull Terrier which mauled six year-old Volkan Kaja to death in Hamburg, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder may find himself and his Government on the receiving end of a high-level legal challenge to the hastily enacted ‘Fighting Dog’ laws applied throughout Germany. The various regional governments (Lander) face similar charges.

British dog enthusiast Catherine Walker, who is married to a German and lives in Austria, has been a vehement campaigner against the fighting dog laws since the authorities began to react to Volkan’s death by penalising all dog owners in Germany.

“What the trial judge effectively said was that Ibrahim K, the pit bull’s owner, could not have predicted his dog’s behaviour,” says Walker. “Therefore, this made a nonsense of the various dog control edicts enacted in the past year, because they are all based on Breed Specific Legislation which assumes that dogs of particular breeds will behave in an aggressive manner.

“I believe that these laws are now open to challenge within the German high courts and, if necessary, through the European Court of Human Rights.”

Walker wrote by e-mail to Chancellor Schröder last week after the trial concluded. Her e-mail is reproduced here in full, with her permission. To date, she has not received a reply from the Chancellor or any of his staff.

Dear Chancellor Schröder
I quote, in translation, from your communiqué of June 29, 2000.
“Fighting Dogs off the Streets
Politicians took fast and decisive action a few days ago, following attacks from fighting dogs. After a six year old boy in Hamburg was killed by one of these dogs, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder demanded “Our streets must be cleared of these fighting machines.” Both the Regional Inner Ministeries and the State Cabinet decided, on Wednesday, June 28, that stern measures must be taken to prevent similar accidents happening in the future.”
I understand that the court has now decided in the case of Ibrahim K of Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg concerning the killing of Volkan and the verdict indicates that there is no way that the killing could have been foreseen.
Is it now your intention to repeal the dog acts implemented since June 29, 2000, banning certain breeds of dog, as there was no evidence accepted by the court that showed a pit bull or any other breed be known to be dangerous before it had carried out a dangerous act?
What measures do you intend to take against news media who reported that the dog was trained to fight and had been starved and drugged, when no autopsy or other evidence was presented to support these allegations?
Will compensation be available to German and other citizens, who suffered at the hands of German authorities or other persons as a result of media hysteria or inappropriate ministerial action?
What are your comments on a crime, which caused: so much suffering, directly or indirectly; the death and abandonment of hundreds of dogs; trauma and distress to dog owners in Germany and other countries and (yet) resulted (only) in a custodial sentence of three years and six months?

Yours sincerely
Catherine Walker
Fuschl am See