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European Dog Laws:

Now Austria considers BSL

THE INSIDIOUS spread of Breed Specific Legislation is now poised to enter a region of one of the very few European nations to have resisted - and previously rejected - BSL as a suitable means of canine control. The Oberösterreich Landtag (State Government of Oberösterreich) in Upper Austria has announced its intentions to frame Breed Specific laws in the near future, although no indication has been given as to which breeds will be included in any list.

Dr Catherine Walker, a British dog owner and leading member of the anti-BSL DogHolocaust Internet List lived in Austria with her German husband until relocating to Wales last year and was often in contact with politicians and breed experts in Austria at the time when Germany, Austria’s closest neighbour, was in the process of introducing its own BSl in the form of Fighting Dog laws.

Dr walker told OUR DOGS: “I lived a few km from Upper Austria until last year and am horrified that even the consideration of BSL should have arisen there. Austria had most of the anti-BSL experts, on whom people in Germany relied to bring the facts about dog aggression to the attention of their politicians. Austria also had a pro-active panel, made up of veterinary researchers from the University, Government Vets, the Austrian Kennel Club and dog behaviourists. All these people were committed to prevent the German situation ever arising in Austria.

“I have written, in German, to all those officials and politicians involved in the drafting of Upper Austria’s BSL and I have also asked for comment from the editor of Austria’s foremost dog magazine, WUFF. The magazine has fought BSL and educated the readership to the real causes of dog aggression. It has been a source of factual information for Germans since July 2000.

“There was an attempt, 18 months ago, to introduce laws to control dangerous breeds in Burgenland. The minister who suggested it was educated by the group of experts who have been active in Austria since 1997 and the proposals were dropped. I hope that the same will occur in Upper Austria. I hope that this is just a consideration by the legislators of Upper Austria, which will be rejected. But whatever it is, it must be seen that we will not sit by and let Breed Specific Legislation be enacted.”

Renate Raab, Secretary of the Austrian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club expressed the fears of many Staffie owners in Austria that the politicians would follow suit with Germany and include the breed arbitrarily.

Ms Raab said: “ At time we have no official information which breeds will be on the list, or if the Staffordshire Bull Terrier will be on the list, but unofficially it seems to be so. For us as Staffordshire Bull terrier lovers the major-problem of course is the great lack of knowledge of the politicians and officials about Staffordshire Bull Terriers as there are only a small number of this breed living in Austria.”

Ms Raab contacted British Conservative MEP Theresa Villiers, who has frequently stood against BSL in Europe. Ms Villiers wrote an open letter to Austrian politicians explaining her opposition to BSL and clear reasons - based on the experiences of the UK and Germany with their own flawed legislation.

In her letter, Ms Villiers said: “ Firstly, the concept of a “breed” of dog, is too unclear for it to be used in legislation without causing serious problems. In the UK, for example, the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act restricted ownership of the Pit bull terrier. Numerous legal cases followed where there was a dispute between the authorities and dog owners as to whether a particular dog was a Pitbull or some other type of breed. This led to much heartache with families separated from well-loved pets for many months. The UK government was eventually forced to amend the legislation so that pets falling within its provisions were neutered rather than destroyed. This reduced some of the legal difficulties but many remain.

“Secondly, government action should be focussed on irresponsible owners and their dogs.
Those who deliberately train dogs to fight and to be aggressive should be subject to severe criminal penalties. Individual dogs which are dangerous (or where there is a proven risk that they are dangerous) should be confiscated or destroyed. The dog attack in Hamburg which sparked the adoption of breed specific legislation in Germany led to the criminal prosecution of the owner and the destruction of the dogs involved. This was an entirely appropriate response to a tragic incident. It is, however, unfair to penalise a whole race of dog because of the actions of a few irresponsible owners. Laws should “punish the deed and not the breed”.

“I have always believed that it makes much more sense to punish the irresponsible dog owner and where necessary, take action in relation to a specific dog which is dangerous. It is wrong and unfair to penalise a whole breed of dog.

State Minister Dr.Josef Pühringer has since replied to Catherine Walker’s letter, stating that any legislation would be drawn up “in consultation with experts”. In a rather arrogant assertion that the legislation would be breed specific, Dr Pühringer added: “...keepers of dogs will, on the basis of breed specific characteristics need a permit from the Buergermeister (mayor). The State government will take the advice of the Veterinary Chamber on which breeds or crosses should be subject to permit.”

However, he added, quite categorically: “We haven’t made any decision yet but the Staffordshire Bull Terrier will not be on the list.”

Catherine Walker commented: “I hope that the Upper Austria vets are as clued up as the Salzburgerland ones. I am hoping that they will be made to understand that a breed list is totally a No-No, as that is the general feeling among Austria’s ‘experts’.”

Romania Exterminates Stray Dogs

THE STREETS literally run red with blood in the Romanian capital of Bucharest as groups of Government-appointed ‘pest controllers’ designated as “Flayers” round up as many stray dogs as they can find, then kill them in the most brutal manner.

For several months, the atrocities carried out against the city’s growing stray dog population have been suppressed by the authorities, but recently, thanks to the determined efforts of a dedicated team of animal lovers, the shocking truth has been revealed to the world via e-mails and truly disturbing images.

A spokesperson for ROLDA told OUR DOGS: “For some months terrible things have to those poor souls. This slaughter begin in Bucharest, when the Mayor of Bucharest, Traian Basescu ordered all dogs without owners be caught and killed. The flayers have ‘disappeared’ more than 150,000 dogs in a few weeks.”

As is often the case when such ‘programmes’ are underatekn by the authorities, the media ran an aggressive anti-dog campaign, playing up the horrors of people being attacked by rampaging packs of stray dogs, as well the disease caused by their very presence. This led, according to ROLDA, of individual citizens poisoning and shooting dogs, fearful of the image created by the media.

The ROLDA spokesperson continued: “The slaughter from Bucharest has moved, step by step to other big cities, where the same terrible things are happening, but there are no protests against the killing. Nobody seems to do or even to say something about it. This isn’t just a slaughter of dogs, it is a slaughter against the very idea of being human.”

“We like to believe that we are superiors beings, that we can move mountains with the power of our minds, but when it’s about real solutions for homeless dogs from here, the irony was we found the ‘best solution’: get rid of them. Eliminating the cause, we must not think too much to find solutions. How very convenient.”

The spokesperson concluded: “In Romania, corruption is rife, everyone steals from everyone else, who cares about dogs any more? Some of these poor creatures are still alive on the streets and deserve to be treated with compassion and care. ROLDA thinks that now, more than ever, it is time to act. We believe the best solution to save as much dogs as we can from authorities is to build a shelter, in which homeless dogs will be sterilised, vaccinated and live without fear the rest of their lives. For building a shelter we need more than ideas, we need people who are willing to help, we need funds, please help us with donations if you can. ROLDA are asking for your help, counting on your understanding to help these poor dogs have a better - and safer - life.”

A spokesman for the Romanian Embassy told OUR DOGS earlier this week: “This inhumane slaughter of dogs by the Mayor of Bucharest was a scandal some time ago, but these images on the website are one and a half yeas old. We passed a law in our lower house of parliament last week to stop stray dogs from being killed. There are lots of shelters for them to be taken to and they are cared for unless they are claimed with two weeks. We do not have a mass slaughter of stray dogs in Romania.”