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

(Updated 19/7/01)

Demos in Düsseldorf and Berlin ignored by German media

by Nick Mays

OPPOSITION TO the German Federal Government and German Landers’ “Fighting Dog Laws” continues strongly in Germany and throughout the world, despite the general lack of media interest in the subject. Two recent demonstrations against the laws in Düsseldorf and Berlin were virtually ignored by the German mainstream media, despite the fact that the campaigners present were highlighting the loss of basic constitutional rights due to the laws, and the illegality of the laws on an EU-wide basis.

Campaigner Ted Gretsch told OUR DOGS: “It has been one year since the Federal Republic of Germany’s anti-dog laws came into existence. These laws are aimed against specific breeds of dog and plan the destruction of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Stafford, Bull Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier. It is maintained in the laws, that these four breeds have an innate increased aggression.

“The dog owner must prove that his dog is not inherently aggressive. Therefore the owner and his dog has to pass special tests. Each dog, who does not pass the test (e.g. because he/it barks at the sight of an other dog or in a provocated situation) is taken away and put to death IMMEDIATELY. There is no possibility, to embark on legal action to prevent the killing of the dog.

“Also the dog owner must pass a test. If he/she does not pass the test (because he/she for example does not find the correct answer to the unscientifically questionnaire) their dog who will be killed immediately. The dogs must be registered with the local authorities.

“The police or any other authority has the right to move enter someone’s home and to search it without judicial search warrant at any time during the day or night if they merely suspect that there is an unregistered or dangerous dog on the premises and to shoot dead the dog if found (which already very often has happened) in the apartment. In one case for example a 63 year-old lady was pulled out of her apartment in handcuffs just because someone told the police that this lady’s dog had bitten another dog - which was not true. Neighbours, who wanted to help her were driven back into their apartments by the police with drawn guns. In the streets open hatred is directed against dogs such as Staffies and their owners. The owners are insulted, spat at, also attacked. The police or other dog haters murder the dogs on the open street.

“It is pointless to complain, as all authorities have decided against the dogs and their holders. On July 12th. the Constitutional Court in Berlin has recognised that this law ‘goes with the constitution in conformity’.

“Despite these laws and the social and political situation, the media does not report about this situation in Germany. They did not report what the demonstrators in Düsseldorf and Berlin were complaining about.”

Gretsch adds: “On 7th July, two nationwide demonstrations occurred. One in Dusseldorf with 5,000 participants and one in Berlin with 2,000 participants. The low turnout explains itself from the genuine fear that owners have, to lose the dog because of demonstrating. “Politically, the demonstrators were all united on certain main points including:
the resignation of certain politicians and the abolition of the anti - dog laws.

One speaker clearly spoke out, voicing what the demonstrators felt:
To loud applause they pointed out that they stood here against the dismantling of basic democratic rights, specifically the right to travel inside Germany when they wanted to. If a German and his Staffie goes on holiday to a foreign country, he or she is not allowed to bring back his dog again to Germany. At the boundary the dog is taken off and killed.

Further anti-dog laws come into force from September 1st, when Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not allowed to take part in any organised dog shows or exhibitions because the German government has declared Staffies as dogs which are bred under “cruel circumstances”, as laid down in the Council of Europe’s Charter on Animal Welfare. Demonstraters declared this decision was not scientific.

It was also pointed out that in Berlin dogs must be a muzzled and leashed. But there are no facilities for the dogs to run and play.

Ted Gretsch concluded:
“The fight against the politicians and the media in this country has just begun. However we need broad support from other countries. Thus the message from Mr. David Levy from the UK was applauded strongly by all those present.

“Mr. Levy pointed out, that we in Germany are not alone and that thereis a Worldwide solidarity with us.

Demonstrators were particularly grateful for the support shown by British dog owners for our struggle.

“After these demonstrations we must go on fighting for both: our dogs and our civil rights! The fight must and will go on.

Dave Levy’s address, sent on behalf of the Kennel Club to be read at the demonstrations, said:
“First I apologise for not being with you in Dusseldorf. As explained, I will be at the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Council meeting in Leicester to brief the delegates from the 18 SBT clubs in the United Kingdom on several matters including the current situation regarding European legislation.

“I am sure that the people gathering in Dusseldorf to continue the protests against this dreadful legislation are aware of the support you have from dog owners in the UK, across Europe and indeed the whole world. Once again an oppressed minority in Germany is indicative of a worldwide disease. The whole basis of the Domino campaign being organised by The Kennel Club is to warn people everywhere, and not just dog owners, just how easily bad laws can spread from country to country and from breed to breed. We offer you our fullest support at this very difficult time.

“We must never forget that some dogs have injured people and indeed a very few have actually caused fatalities. What causes such incidents is almost certainly the incompetence - even the criminal negligence of some owners. So how can the solution be to ban specific races of dogs? Why do those in authority continue to divert attention away from the real causes and concentrate on denouncing “devil dogs”, “fighting dogs” or “killer breeds”?

“I have even recently read one story that reported the case of an elderly woman being severely injured in an attack by a Rough Collie. Yet the article ended with a call for the banning of Pitbulls, Tosas and Akitas.

“An unprovoked dog attack is always unforgivable but it is the very rarity of fatal incidents that cause some newspapers to treat a fatal dog attack with an almost joyous over-reaction. It is even worse when a news editor intentionally chooses an apparently defenceless target, such as a small group of dog owners, as a means of increasing circulation and that seems to be precisely what has happened in Germany:

“Unfortunately, once the media has decided to attack a particular famous individual or indeed a section of the public, their power is such that nobody can expect a fair chance to answer back. Look at how difficult it is right now to have a letter published in your democratic “free” press protesting against the indefensible attack on the rights of dog owners and their pets.

“Just try telling a journalist that cats, horses and even rats each kill more people every single year than dogs. They are just not interested in facts, merely trying to outdo one another with ever more extreme stories that might appear to support their argument.

“As for the weak-minded politicians who fall prey to this one-sided media frenzy, they will just refuse to consider factual or scientific evidence, preferring to listen only to those tales that reinforce their increasing prejudice.

“So where is the independent voice of reason that will eventually restore justice to dog owners? Our only protection is an independent judiciary. In the UK the House of Lords is the ultimate Court, but also the senior political chamber, and sure enough politically-biased decisions taken there in the 1990s decided:
a) That the inside of a private motor vehicle is a public place; and
b) That a pitbull terrier could be bred from 2 totally different parents.

“Meanwhile the national, and independent High Court increasingly began to overturn decisions taken by lower courts. They freed a dog that had been sick in its muzzle, released a “dangerous” dog (- with no teeth!) and ordered the police to let a variety of pet dogs return to their owners; albeit after varying periods of absence up to 5 years. Soon the media began to concern itself with the waste of tax payers’ money fighting indefensible dog cases.

“It is fair to assume that most national politicians are swayed by so called “evidence” being churned out by the gutter press and, like all politicians, they hate to admit ever having been wrong. However, the pressure is now mounting and it is becoming increasingly clear that the German Government, just like its British counterpart in 1996, is beginning to seek a way out of this mess.

“At last we seem to be seeing independent thought being demonstrated by the German Courts. At least the judges are considering facts and ignoring prejudice. The European Commission has also indicated its objection to these unfair laws. Complaints continue to flood into German Embassies around the world and it is hopefully only a matter of time before an appropriate opportunity, change of government or instruction from legal authorities will ensure a return to some sanity.

“We are not looking to overturn any political party nor to restrict the value of a free democratic press. We are not criminals and we are not facists, communists or anarchists. We are normal law-abiding citizens and we and our dogs deserve fair representation, access to justice and the right to live peacefully with our chosen pets free from persecution.

“The struggle for justice goes on and the battlefield is the courts of Germany and Europe. In the meantime, rest assured that you have the respect and support of many thousands of British dog owners.

“We will win because we are right.”
David Levy.

Kennel Club Liaison Officer for Staffordshire Bull Terriers.