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(Updated 14/5/01)

Germany goes 'on trial' over new legislation

by Nick Mays in Geneva

THE GERMAN Federal Government was found guilty of breed discrimination and extermination of dogs in Germany in a ‘show trial’ conducted by a European animal charity in Geneva this week.

The barbarity of the Government’s laws (which are illegal under EU law) and the various anti-dog laws enacted by various Lander (State Parliaments) which led to the death of dogs such as Apollo (pictured below) were graphically outlined at the International Court of Justice for Animal Rights, which was convened at the Centre International de Conférences in Geneva on Monday.

The show trial, which - unfortunately - has no legal powers, was staged for the world’s media and interested parties campaigning against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), by the Franz Weber Foundation, based in Switzerland.

This photo of Apollo, shot and fatally wounded by German police, was posted on the internet earlier this year.

Real-life lawyers appeared for both the prosecution and defence (although the German Federal Government studiously refused to acknowledge the public hearing).

The plaintiffs in the case were the Animal Protection Party of Germany, together with nineteen other registered campaigning organisations. Delegates from European Animal Defence organisations, experts, jurists and witnesses from Germany and other parts of Europe attended the trial. Film documentaries and photos were shown in support of the accusation.

The ‘court’ was composed of an international jury of nine jurors and three judges and was presided over by Franz Weber himself. There was simultaneous translation of the proceedings in English, French and German.

The prosecution’s case was outlined by campaigner Hans-Jurgen Gerlach:
“For many years German politicians have chosen to ignore the burning question of dogs misused as fighting weapons, even though animal protectionists have continuously drawn attention to the situation. Today however, these same politicians are active in interfering with the rights of dogs and their owners as well as committing serious offences against the animal protection law. The results are mass-killings of completely innocent dogs and the traumatic ordeals suffered by the resulting social out-casting of blameless dog owners. These acts of destruction are not only totally senseless but also feed and support a dangerous tendency within the population towards mass hysteria leading to an inflammatory lynch-justice against people and animals.

“At the end of August 2000 the Court for Animal Rights sent an urgent written report to the German President, the German Chancellor, the Leader of the German Government and other important German politicians stating its concern about the situation of mass canine extermination. The response by these persons was evasive, devious or appeasing. Now, as before, the drama surrounding the fate of these dogs is played out of the sight and reach of the general public.”

Amongst those who gave evidence to the ‘court’was long-time campaigner Silke Groos who outlined in graphic detail the various States Governments’ plans to destroy large numbers of dogs, but added that both hamburg and North-Rhein Westphalia were prevented from doing so by international pressure. She added that in North-Rhein Westphalia there were over 4,500 dogs of ‘discriminated breeds’ in council-run dog shelters.

Franz Weber and ‘Naomi’ an American Staffordshire Terrier pictured at the start of the trial with a photograph of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröeder. Photo by Nick Mays

“There is total xenophobia over a number of dog breeds,” said Groos, “GSDs which are responsible for the most bites during the past three years are not covered by any States’ laws or Federal breed bans... The Bull breeds which are discrimninated against have a small lobby and little public recognition, whereas the GSDs have a powerful lobby in their favour... but owners of different dog breeds are now being set against each other.”

Werner Klinger of the small Liberal Party - also a long-time campaigner and owner of a Mastiff - drew applause when he outlined the Federal Government’s media campaign of fear abour so-caalled ‘fighting dogs’, which had led to many dog owners being attracked verbally and physically, saying: “Fear is always a bad counsel,”

Following on, Klinger outlinbed the outreageous comments made on TV by Otto Schily, Federal Minister of the Interior and Vice-Chancellor, who denounced all such dogs as dangerous and their owners as criminals. “If a Minister of State confirms publically what the gutter press writes, then citizens think that this must be correct. He should resign. This man went on the streets in demonstrations in 1968 to protest against the erosion of civil rights, but he has now eroded civil rights. After 60 years, we have a two-tier legal system... even criminals have the right of privacy in their own homes, but dog owners do not.”

After several hours of evidence, the jury, comprised of campiagners and dog experts from Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Austria and Switzerland returned to deliver their verdict. The outcome was never in any doubt; all the accused were found guilty of racial discrimination against dogs and their owners, violation of dog owners’ constitutional rights and of wanting to export these laws to other states.

Franz Weber read the verdict, copies of which were circulated in French, German and English and which would be circulated throughout the world.

A range of demands to make amendes for these abuses was also added, including the suspension of all breed lists and the repal of the Federal law banning four Bull breeds.

A full report of the ‘trial’, together with more photographs, appears in next week’s OUR DOGS.