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In defence of the dog

On Wednesday, 6th February 2002, Kennel Club representatives travelled to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, to make a presentation to MEPs of the ‘Intergroup On The Welfare And Conservation Of Animals’. The talk was entitled ‘Canine Breed Specific Legislation Within Europe’ and The Kennel Club was accompanied by members of DominoDogsDeutschland (DDD), who had travelled to give a first hand account of the situation in Germany. The meeting was heralded a success by all.

The presentation had been co-ordinated by Theresa Villiers MEP, who has been extremely pro-active in lobbying against Breed Specific Legislation in Europe and, with her UK Parliamentary colleagues, has attended Kennel Club events to show her support for the Domino Campaign and even handed a petition into 10 Downing Street.

Over 50 MEPs and their representatives attended the meeting, representing European countries including the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal and Holland. Germany, a country considered largely responsible for this issue due to the draconian canine legislation that has been implemented there, was not represented.

Proceedings were opened by Mrs Villiers, who outlined the current situation in Germany, having commented on the flawed UK Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991 and the problems that this piece of ‘knee jerk’ legislation had caused. Theresa then advised the audience that she had received a great deal of e-mails regarding the issue in Germany and other areas of Europe, and she then mentioned the existence of the Domino campaign, originally conceived in the UK, but now thriving in Germany also!

The next speaker was Harald Wiegand, Chairman of DDD, who gave an emotive overview of the German situation, where the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier and a wide array of other breeds are currently being persecuted following a fatal dog attack carried out by an American Staffordshire Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier. He outlined that there was no rationale for Germany’s decision to outlaw these breeds, but still the country persecutes dogs and penalises dog owners, whilst failing to respond to the European Commission’s request to provide scientific evidence that proves the Stafford or Bull Terrier is more likely to bite than other breeds.

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of The Kennel Club, then discussed the DDA and the problems and heartbreak to both dogs and owners that this legislation had caused. The Group were interested to learn of the confusion that had arisen from dogs being wrongly accused of conforming to Pit Bull ‘type’ and the resulting distress this had caused to owners and their dogs when their much loved Stafford or Bull Terrier, or even cross breed, was destroyed or imprisoned. Mrs Kisko mentioned that the situation had improved since 1997, when judges were given discretion to remove the compulsory destruction order, but warned that this change to the law was under threat due to the ‘Dino’ case. Dino the German Shepherd Dog is facing a destruction order, although the case is under appeal.

Mrs Kisko then concluded the talk by explaining why breed specific legislation was not the solution, and why legislation should be in place, if considered necessary, to ‘Punish the deed, not the breed’, based on the particular circumstances.

Q & A

A question and answer session then took place and some interesting points were raised. It became clear to all that the issue of ‘dangerous dogs’ was largely due to the actions of irresponsible owners, who either deliberately train their dogs to be aggressive - the German situation is a prime example, as the owner of the dogs that killed Volkan was a convicted criminal - or do not grasp the concept of responsible dog ownership and allow their dogs to become out of control. It was also felt that tougher penalties should be introduced against the owner as, after all, very few dogs are born aggressive. They should learn about ‘acceptable’ behaviour from their owners.

In summing up, both the Intergroup President Robert Evans MEP and Secretary David Wilkins, reiterated that in general, the responsibility lies firmly with the owner. All felt that the presentation had been both constructive and educational and information leaflets were distributed to the MEPs and their representatives at the end to take away for their consideration and future reference.

Said Theresa Villiers MEP, “The meeting was a very successful exchange of views with MEPs from many parts of Europe and from all political standpoints. MEPs expressed their serious concerns about dog legislation in Europe, particularly in the UK and Germany. I think MEPs were shocked by the harrowing reports of what is happening in Germany and deeply concerned to hear of the growing problems with dogs being abandoned by owners too scared to keep them. I will continue to campaign hard for the repeal of breed specific legislation and an end to anti-dog laws which are a threat to so many well loved family pets.”

Harald Wiegand continued, “DDD was very pleased to be invited here and we knew that MEPs would be shocked to hear of the atrocities being committed to dogs in Germany. There have been recent cases of further dog shootings by the Police and now people are being murdered, simply for owning dogs.

“The matter is completely out of hand and it is becoming ever more apparent that we must rely on our friends in Europe to help us with this situation, as the German Authorities, and majority of citizens are becoming increasingly anti-dog.”

Caroline Kisko concluded, “We would like to thank Theresa Villiers MEP and her parliamentary colleagues for allowing us to present to them this important issue. The meeting was certainly constructive and we now hope that MEPs will consider this discussion very seriously, should their own countries be considering drafting canine legislation in the future.”

L to r Harald Wiegand - DDD, Caroline Kisko - KC Secretary,
Mrs Inger Schorling MEP, President of the Intergroup Mr Robert Evans MEP,
Intergroup Secretary David Wilkins and Theresa Villiers MEP.