Adverts: 0161 709 4576 - Editorial: 0161 709 4571
Mail Order: 0161 709 4578 - Subs: 0161 709 4575 - Webteam: 0161 709 4567
German owners set to deliver election blow to Schroder

GERMAN DOG owners, penalised by the German Federal Government’s draconian Kampfhund (Fighting Dog) laws for the past two years are set to deliver their verdict on BSL German-style by delivering a resounding vote of no confidence in Chancellor Gerard Schroder’s SDP party in the General Election, due to take place in just over a week’s time.

Up until August, the SDP has been lagging in the public opinion polls. The main reason cited for this antipathy is due to Germany's high unemployment rate, a record four million, coupled with a failing economy – the worst of all European countries.

To add to the Government’s unpopularity, the terrible flooding which beset many areas of Europe last month has left the Government with the problem of how to pay the billions of marks required to fix the damage. However, although compensation for the flood victims has not been paid yet, Schroder looked good by expressing his sympathy for the victims and thus has recently risen in the polls.

On the downside for Schroder, the SPD is talking about raising taxes to help with the funding for the flood victims. The people in Germany are extremely upset that there has not been a fund set up for emergencies such as these, to bring immediate financial relief for the victims. Even now, there are still several thousand people still living in shelters.

The main opposition party, the CDU (former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s party), led by Edmund Stoiber of Bavaria is still plugging away at the high unemployment record and promoting the fact that Schroder stated four years ago, if the unemployment rate does not decrease with the SPD, then he, (Schroder) does not have the right to remain Chancellor. In common with all politicians around the world, Stoiber is telling the people the CDU will put things back on the right track. Recent opinion polls put both Stoiber and the CDU ahead in many key policy areas.

The Bundis90/Green Party (which forms the coalition Government with the SPD) has been severely lagging behind in the polls. They are big advocates of BSL, not helping the Americans in the war on terror to the point of outright opposition to the sending of German troops to Afghanistan earlier this year.

The party has also been hit by allegations of corruption when the press revealed the scandal of several top party politicians using the ‘Frequent Flier miles’ (from their Government funded air flights) for private use. Several of the party’s top ‘stars’ resigned when the scandal came to light.

However, the party has regained some credibility by talking about the need to save the environment in the wake of the German floods.

The FDP, normally the fourth-placed party in the power stakes is rapidly rising and is now in third place in the opinion polls. The FDP is the only political party that has fought for dog owners’ rights and opposed the harsh laws – including the infamous ‘Breed Lists’ at national and regional level.

The FDP has indicated that they wish to form a partnership with the CDU and thus form a strong alternative Government to the SDP/Green alliance.

As for the BSL laws themselves, there has been no further public discussion of the matter since the laws banning four breeds (including pit bulls and Staffordshire Bull Terriers) and the Animal Protection Act – which gives animals ‘rights’ – except so-called ‘dangerous’ in April 2001 and September 2001 respectively.

Anti-BSL campaigner Cathie Detmar told OUR DOGS: "No discussion at all. No need to, the typical German way. It is done and they move on. The truth is, the Government are really not interested in whether one breed is more dangerous than another. This is evident by the many speeches given in parliament. Their main interest was making the public afraid of dogs and then setting up ordinances and laws to make them feel safe again. It was really for the good of the parties and their standing in public opinion."

Cathie Detmar comments: " The Animal Protection Act forbids the breeding of the three listed other listed breeds with the pit bull with the reason stated that these breeds are NOT dangerous towards humans, but are dangerous to other animals, cannot socialise with one another, reproduce normally being deemed too aggressive for breeding and cannot produce a normal litter, as they ‘often kill their puppies’. Both laws made it legal to punish anyone breaking these rules by time in prison and confiscation of animals. Thanks to this, the politicians can say the laws and ordinances are working, as no one in their right mind would dare to challenge them with breeding or importing. They will say the number of dog bites have been reduced. And if you still see the fear in the public's eyes towards certain breeds the laws in place are working exactly how the politicians hope they would."

On a slightly more optimistic note, only a few of the 16 regional Lander (States Governments) have a law in place concerning BSL. The majority of the states set up a dog ordinance so it could be done quickly. In a rush to put these ordinances in place, they simply tacked the dog ordinance to a police ordinance relating to the safety of the public. The Berlin Administration Court ruling on July 3 2002 made this method illegal, thus throwing out every dog ordinance in Germany. Now all the Lander are scrambling to bring motions to the various regional Parliaments this autumn in the hope to have laws in place by the beginning of next year.

The problem facing any Lander which wishes to utilise the Berlin ruling in any BSL-related legislation is that the written decision from the Berlin Administration Court has not yet been published - only the press release was issued in July. Until the written decision is published, none of the German states can act until they see what exactly the judges decided. However, it is expected that the ruling will be published within the next month.

In the ruling, the judges ruled that no one could blame a single accident on an entire breed. They said there are many factors involved in a dog that bites: The dog’s genetic history, how the dog is raised, what the owner does with the dog, what kind of environment the dog lives in, etc.

Detmar adds: "If what the judges said in court comes out in the written decision, then it will be extremely hard for the different states to ban a breed 'because they want to'. They will have to come up with significant proof. This court trial only affected all of the dog ordinances that were in place in Germany (which was the majority of the states.) It does not affect the regions with a law nor does it affect the Federal Law against importing the four ‘banned breeds’. This law is being challenged by the VDH (German Kennel Club) and my husband Rudi and I are challenging breed clubs at the Constitutional Court and the breed ban for Bull Terriers, with the help of the Bull Terrier Club of England and the U.S., plus the VDH and FCI. I checked with Dave Levy in the UK and he knows of no Staffie breeder here prepared to sue at the Federal Level. The same goes for the American Stafford. Breeders here in Germany - not yet anyway.

"What is nice though, is not only are the national elections going to be held in two weeks, but in the spring many of the Lander have elections coming up as well. My hope is that Schroder loses the General Election, thus losing the SPD/Green party hold on Germany and thus helping us in the BSL arena."


Another interesting fact in the ongoing political battle against BSL is that during the last two years many politicians quoted bite statistics of various breeds. These statistics are taken from the Deutscher Statetag, the Government agency that compiles all data on everything that occurs in Germany.

The problem with the bite statistics that various regions used is that they were frequently manipulated. This fact came to light at the Berlin court hearing. The Government constantly quoted how many litters were born by using the VDH statistics and comparing them to dog incidents for those breeds, thereby coming up with a percentage.

It was pointed out that these litter statistics did not include the hundreds of puppies born by ‘dissident’ breeders (those who are not a member of a breed club, so no official pedigrees are issued.) So the percentage numbers quoted by the politicians were incorrect.

Secondly the Dt. Statetag reports any and all incidents involving animals, not just dog bites. But the government used these statistics as meaning everything reported by certain breeds were dog bites. This deliberate falsification of data was exposed and justly corrected in the Berlin ruling.

Every region has quite a number of lawsuits in progress against BSL. Before the Berlin decision, there were over 40 lawsuits alone in Lower Saxony. After the Berlin trial, the need for most of the lawsuits passed since the State currently has no BSL-related dog law.

However, campaigners estimate that there are at least 12 to 15 lawsuits per region currently in progress.

Cathie Detmar sums up the German political situation relating to BSL: "The hatred is still here towards many dog owners. Last weekend, we were bringing one of our dogs to a friend in Sweden. In the Northern part of Germany, about 30 minutes before we reached the ferry for Denmark, we stopped at a rest area to walk the dog and let him have water. He is a medium sized red male, with a wonderful character. Is fine with all animals, regardless of sex or species. We pulled in next to a car that was also in the shade and its two occupants were standing next to their car eating lunch. We opened the back of the station wagon and the minute 'Brian' jumped out of the car, the woman ran and jumped in her car and locked the door. Her husband ran to the other side of the car and watched. 'Brian' who was only interested in getting his business done and happily trotted off with Rudi to an area of trees.

They were both gone about 20 minutes and I stood by the car, holding in my anger and keeping a neutral look on my face. The woman slowly got out and ran to the other side with her husband. Both were standing there like Indian scouts looking for the 'monster'. I never looked at them nor acknowledged their behaviour and it was damn hard. The minute Rudi and Brian appeared and walked back to the car, the woman ran and jumped in the car, quickly rolling up the window.

" The important note here: this happened in a region of Germany where the Bull Terrier has never been on a ‘high rated’ List 1 or 2. It just goes to show you that the media and politicians did a damn fine job.

"However, if the electorate turn against Schroder and the SDP at the election, hopefully all this will change. We live in hope."