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German BSL - an inspector calls

GERMANY, July 1st 2003: THE FEAR of the secret police knocking on one’s door is, to many Germans just a folk memory, something that belongs to a dim and unenlightened past, only to be seen on Hollywood films. But to other German citizens, it is a grim reality, here and now.

American-born Bull Terrier owner and anti-BSL campaigner Cathie Detmar and her German husband Rudi found themselves on the receiving end of a visit from the 21st century German equivalent – a Government Veterinary Inspector.

Cathie takes up the story for OUR DOGS:

‘On July 1st, 2003, there was a knock on the door and it was the state veterinarian, who had the order from the State Government to come and inspect the house and dogs. This is usually done when there is suspicion, concern, and possible evidence of lying to the Government when we registered the dogs in 2000 when the Kampfehund laws were enacted.

‘The vet first scanned all of the dogs in the house with a scanner and verified their microchip number to the one listed on their pedigrees and cross-checked with those dogs we had to register in 2000. He demanded to see all the rooms in the house and where the dogs slept, inspected the paperwork from Cathie’s last litter, then perused her Kennel Club book on the last several litters that she bred. (Under German kennel club rules, this book must be kept up to date on every litter).

‘He then took the names and addresses of the owners who purchased pups from the last litter (even those resident in other countries).

Cathie continues as the vet’s inspection grew ever more insidious: ‘Back in 2000, we had registered 2 or 3 dogs with the Government who are no longer here. One we lost at 12 years of age to a stroke and had to be put to sleep, one who went to Sweden and another (Pretty Boy Floyd) who went to America. He wanted proof the last two were really in other countries, so we had to produce puppy contracts with names and addresses.

‘He wanted to know how often the dogs get exercised. We told him besides being loose in the house and backyard, they go daily to the field by our house to walk or run off-leash. Just to make sure they are active and sociable (even though he had copies of their temperament test) he asked how they were together. So we let them all out into the back yard to see for himself. I think he was a little impressed to see six bullies playing together.’

After one and a half hours the vet finally left telling Cathie and Rudi that everything was in order and he would write a report to the ministry that the dogs were fine, the paperwork was in order and that everything in the Detmar household was as they had reported to the Government.

Cathie continues: "I must admit, when he first came to the door, I was very nervous. The federal law states that if this should happen, the veterinarian has full authority to inspect the house, dogs and all paperwork connected to the dogs. He has the authority to call the police for help, if he deems it necessary. If he finds anything that is not 'kosher' he has the right to remove the dogs. Even though I know we would not have a problem, it was still a bit unsettling to have him in the house.

I am just glad it is over and will be damned glad when our legal challenge to BSL is underway in the courts and over, so this BSL hysteria can be put behind us.

Cathie concludes: "This is the last thing Rudi and I ever thought would happen, since he is with the kennel club in Lower Saxony and we have been so active in this whole thing, staying in contact with the Government. It was just one way someone wanted to give us pressure. Maybe because we have not fit the 'standard mould' of bull-breed owners, or what they perceive as the ‘standard’ owner.

"Hopefully no other country will follow this part of the German law, since they are quoting Germany on many other issues pertaining to the dogs. As an American living here, I found it incredible that someone could enter your home because of the dogs you have. If it concerned some other crime, they would need a court order. But dog owners don’t have those rights. I just want dog owners in other countries to realise that things are not as quiet here in Germany as it looks."