GERMAN POLICE once again showed its true colours when officers mercilessly shot dead two pet dogs during a raid at a private house in the quiet town of Olfen, Munsterland, North-Rhine Westphalia. The dogs had been accused of attacking a labourer on a nearby building site, prompting the swift action under Germanys, Breed-Specific Legislation, the so-called Fighting Dog laws.
The pressure group Domino Dogs Deutschland conducted its own investigation into the action carried out by the Police and the Olfen Public Order Department against five medium sized dogs, all of which had official certification that they did not belong to a so-called
fighting dog breed.
Reporter Andrea Koch of the Suddeutschen Zeitung newspaper and Klaus Brzezinski undertook the DDD investigation and found some serious flaws in the authorities reaction to the original complaint against the dogs.
The families involved in the incident were identified as Mr and Mrs P, their daughter and her partner Mr N, who have a child and live together in the same large mansion house. They own four dogs and two cats between them. There are other tenants in other apartments in the property. The house itself is surrounded by a 5.4" (1.6m) high wire fence and is quite secure, with as large iron "dog proof" gate for access. Opposite the property is the municipal building yard.
Koch and Brzezinski met Mr P, the owner of the property, and soon afterwards his daughter and her partner, Mr N. Mrs P was not present, being in hospital after suffering a heart attack shortly after the police action, as she already suffered from severe heart problems.
The family background involving dog ownership is quite interesting, but hardly threatening or inclined towards the ownership of dangerous dogs.
Mr P. has owned dogs - mainly Dogues - for forty years without any problem. His daughter rehomed a Greyhound-Labrador cross breed, - an entire bitch - from the local animal shelter.
Under NRW dog laws, this crossbreed comes under the "20/40" ruling). At that point in time she already owned another crossbreed (also a 20/40 dog). The bitch had a litter. Some of the puppies looked like Pointer-Whippet mongrels with narrow pointed noses, others were stockier in head and body. Photographs of the puppies subsequently failed to show any phenotypic breed characteristics.
After the German Dangerous Dogs Act came into being the dogs were registered with the Public Order Department. There followed an inspection by a County Vet and the manager of the Public Order Department. They demanded that the fence to raised to the height of 5.4 " (1.6m), then checked the dogs over by the County Vet, who declared them to be "20/40s".
The owner wanted to do a character test with his dogs of his own free will, but the County Vet refused as this wasn't required for 20/40 dogs and pointed out that, in any case, the dogs were all very friendly.
The manager of the Public Order Department drew up certification that these were not fighting dogs, but mongrels, which were covered by the 20/40 ruling of the Dangerous Dogs Act. The Public Order Department did not ask the dog owner for a police report either. To make sure there would not be any problems from the Public Order Office, Mr P erected a second fence of the same height, which prevented the dogs from running free in paddocks at the back of the property, nor was there any danger of them barking at passers-by On the morning of January 17th, at about 5.30am., Mrs P (wife of the owner) went outside the front door to have a cigarette while letting her three dogs out into the fenced in part of the garden for to allow them to do their toilet.
During the night or early in the morning an unknown person must have opened the gate to the property and taken off the security chain. Mrs P was unable to see that the gate was open in the dim light. At this point, the three dogs then ran out through the gate, and crossed over to the municipal building yard opposite.
From there Mrs P heard a workman shout. She ran over, saw him gesticulating wildly, kicking and hitting at the dogs. Upon seeing Mrs P he declared: "One of them bit me!"
She called the dogs, who came at once took them back to her house, then returned to speak to the workman, asked what happened and whether he was hurt. He answered that one of the dogs had bitten his leg.
About 6.00 am. Mrs P asked her husband to go over to the yard and find out precisely what had been going on. As the workman's trousers showed neither holes nor dirt marks, Mr P doubted the man's claims.
About 8.00 am. Miss P and her partner went over to the building site to see whether they could see the bite and perhaps begin to talk about compensation. They didn't see any sign of a wound either and could not see any damage to the workmans trousers. When they asked to see the wound, he firmly refused to show them.
About 3.00 pm. that afternoon, Miss P and her partner left the flat with their baby. Their own two dogs, which had not been involved in the incident in the morning, and their four cats, were left behind. The other three dogs were in the Mr and Mrs Ps flat.
About 3:30 pm, Mrs P looked out of the window and saw 16 police cars with the policemen surrounding the property. Mr P went to the gate alone, while the dogs stayed in the flat.
The manager of the Public Order Office was at the gate, saying: "We are now going to confiscate your dogs." Mr P asked the officers to wait at the gate so he could ring his daughter. Without answering or allowing Mr P time to make his call, the manager and all the policemen stormed the fenced-in inner area with drawn weapons, ready to shoot, and commanded Mr P to let the dogs out immediately, otherwise they would storm the flat.
Mr P opened the front door in a state of shock and the dogs ran out in panic.
In the tense atmosphere with unknown human beings shouting and gesticulating, one of the dogs nipped the manager. A police officer then deliberately showed his sleeve to the dog, the dog pulled at the jacket and the policemen immediately started firing.
badly injured first dog staggered away for some ten metres,
before collapsing dead at the fence. A number of other policemen
started firing wildly and indiscriminately, at which point
a second dog was hit, but in the general confusion he vanished
out of sight and was assumed to have fled together with a
third dog for fear of the shooting. Frightened by the sounds
of gunfire, Miss Ps two dogs, which were her flat with
the four cats, looked out through the closed metal blinds.
Upon seeing them, manager of the Public Order Department is alleged to have shouted: "Kill the Lot", at which point the police officers started firing again. At no point did any officer stop to ascertain whether there was anybody in the apartment, and could not have known this, due to the metal blinds being closed. Next to the window in the bedroom there was a blue rattan chair that was penetrated by a bullet. It was in this chair that Miss P used to sit while her baby had a lunchtime nap in her parents' bed.
In the meantime Miss P and her partner Mr N, together with their baby returned from their shopping trip and saw the police helicopter hovering over their home. The helicopter had been called by the police on the ground had in order to use thermal imaging cameras to find two dogs which were said to have fled in a state of panic.
The wounded second dog had not escaped, as had at first been thought, but had taken a desperate jump through the broken back widow of the house. As he had been hit by a number of bullets he bled to death there without anybody knowing about it.
The third dog, which had escaped, was hit by a car four kilometres away (Mr P suspects it was a police car) and had dragged himself badly injured into the back corner of a partly open garage.
Miss P asked a vet who had accompanied the police, to follow the helicopter with her. The vet had watched the whole episode in a state of shock with a stun gun in his hands, expecting only to use the stun gun if absolutely necessary. He had certainly not expected to see the police open fire in such a frenzied manner. As Miss P and the vet arrived at the garage about four kilometres away -in the middle of a built-up area - they found that a number of policemen were stationed there, poised to open fire on the injured dog.
After a lengthy discussion with the senior police officer, Miss P was allowed to go to the dog, which had gone into hiding behind a dustbin. With a lot of encouragement he came to her, she picked him up ("..he was shaking and bleeding badly.....") and carried him to the vet's car. As she did that she heard one policeman say that they had not warned the inhabitants of the surrounding properties of the use of shotguns at the garage. Another of the policemen had tears in his eyes as he saw the injured dog in her arms, so he had to turn away, saying that he himself had a dog.
In the meantime the helicopter was seen returning to the property. The daughter hurried back with the vet and the injured dog to prevent the second escaped dog from being killed also.
When she got back home her shocked mother said that she had found the dog dead at the back of the house. Completely shell shocked, and beside herself with grief, she asked her daughter to have another look at him, in the hope that he was still alive.
Mrs P alleges that one of the officers told her brusquely: "Lift your feet and get inside, oldie".
The manager of the Public Order Department then ordered the two dogs in the flat to be let out, otherwise the police would start firing again and would storm the flat. Miss P insisted that she should fetch the dogs, and she was eventually allowed to take the dogs to a waiting car. All three surviving dogs (the daughter's two and the injured dog) were taken to a boarding kennel.
Koch and Brzezinski conclude their report of the incredible incident: "The dogs now have to undergo a character test - including the injured one - although the outcome of the test seems to be a forgone conclusion as the Manager of the Public Order Department is involved. The owners are still completely traumatised by their experiences, but want to use all legal means to get the dogs home as soon as possible. They are afraid for their safety."
This terrible incident once again reveals the nazi-like mindset behind some Government officials and police officers in enforcing the overly harsh Fighting Dog laws. No investigation into the complaint of an alleged attack on the workman was carried out; no evidence to suggest that one of the dogs bit the man has been forthcoming. Instead, the authorities approach was to go in hard rather than let the dogs owner calmly bring the dogs out of the property.
For supposedly trained law enforcement officers to start firing with live ammunition simply to kill dogs which are suspected of being dangerous, without any checks for the safety of people in the area simply beggars belief. But it would seem that the authorities feel they have carte blanche to use such tactics because of the irrational fear that exists against dogs in Germany.
With thanks to Andrea Koch and Klaus Brzezinski
OUR DOGS will report any further developments in this alarming case as soon as such become available.