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(Updated 09/03/01)

Police gun down dog

By Nick Mays

POLICE OFFICERS IN Dortmund gunned down a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross which allegedly bit a smaller dog in a public park, leaving the wounded animal to bleed in the street for 40 minutes until a vet administered a lethal injection.

The Staffie-cross named ‘Apollo’ is alleged to have run up to Klara Schramma, 60, as she was walking her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ‘Charlie’ in the park. Frau Schramma said that Apollo grabbed the Cavalier and ran off with him across the park, but that Charlie was unharmed due to he calling out to him to “play dead.” This supposedly confused the dog long enough to allow two armed police officers to approach and pump at least six shots into the animal’s body, using Walther 7.62 pistols with ammunition deigned to remain within the body of the target.

At least one shot went wide of the dog and hit the wall of an apartment block bordering the park, narrowly missing a kitchen window where two women were standing.

Although the dog was fatally wounded and unable to walk - one shot having penetrated its head, just below the eye, the police placed a catchpole around its neck to restrain it, and allowed press photographers and a local TV news camera crew to film it.

Eventually a female vet arrived and administered a lethal injection. This failed to take effect, so fifteen minutes later she administered another dose, which finally released the dog from its suffering. Local council workers then removed the dog’s body.

According to the official police statement, the crossbreed was unaccompanied by its owner, but was discovered to be microchipped, which would lead them to the owner, who faced possible prosecution for allowing Apollo the stray and behave aggressively in public.

The next day, the German newspapers were full of gruesome; full-colour photographs of the dying dog, and pictures of the courageous Charlie and his owner. BILD newspaper ran its usual ‘Fighting Dog’ hysterical headlines, describing Apollo as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, rather than a ‘mix’ or ‘crossbreed’ and seemed to celebrate the fact that a dog had been gunned down. A TV news programme staged a theatrical reconstruction of the attack, with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier being made to bare its teeth, doubling as Apollo in attack mode, although the dog was clearly not snarling.

Frau Schramma spoke at length about her horror at the ordeal, and showed how well trained Charlie was, by telling him to play dead. The owner of a Staffie spoke, explaining how good natured the breed usually was, and how hers was restrained with muzzle and lead, although the caption described her as a ‘Fighting Dog’ owner.

The immigrant owner of the apartment which was hit by the stray bullets pointed to a hole in the exterior wall, saying how dangerous the whole incident was and that the police had been ‘trigger happy’.

The news of the incident prompted outrage from campaigners fighting against the German anti-dog laws and Breed Specific Legislation around the world, with photographs of Apollo placed on the DogHolocaust website. Complaints were lodged with the Dortmund police about their tactics.

Leading anti-BSL campaigner Gabi Woiwode from Bavaria told OUR DOGS: “There are many varieties of answers and many versions of this story, none of which is making sense. The owner of the Spaniel tells the version that Apollo ran off with her dog in his mouth. She yelled at her doggie to “play dead” which he did and Apollo threw him away. She said he learned to play dead in the dog school.

“I already asked at the Internet guestbook of the Dortmund police for the address of the dog school that teaches a dog to play dead that perfectly that he even can follow this order in a moment of acute life danger. And all this so very perfectly, that he does not only look like a dead dog, but also SMELLS like a dead one.”

Woiwode concludes: “In the end, as many versions as we have - I never read that they had to shoot to get the Spaniel free or that Apollo still was close to the Spaniel when the police arrived.”