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Chancellor in the doghouse

GERHARD SCHRÖDER, the German Chancellor, and his wife have been criticised for allowing their voracious Border Terrier to be used to promote canine products made in China.

German businesses and trade groups have expressed anger at the Schröders’ backing for Winston Holly products, from water bowls to winter coats. Named for the Schröders’ family pet, 18-month-old Holly, who appears on all advertising material, the discounted products have been gaining market share at the expense of dearer products made in Germany.

Although a share of the profits from the sale of Winston Holly products goes to animal charities, and none goes to the Schröders, the Chancellor and his wife, Doris, have infuriated the pet industry. "Frau Schröder is insulting the whole German pet-shop business and threatening German jobs," Klaus Oechsner, head of the German Pet Shop Federation, said. "The fact is that most supplies sold by discount chains are produced in low-wage countries such as China and Thailand. There is no other way they can keep prices down so low."

"Is Holly the Chancellor’s Dog destroying jobs?" asked Der Spiegel magazine. With German unemployment predicted to rise to five million in 2005, the Chancellor is vulnerable to any suggestion that he is "unpatriotic". He has even switched from Italian to German-designed suits.
Frau Schröder reached a deal with the Rossmann chemists and household goods chain to use Holly’s picture to promote a line of 44 canine products. The Chancellor’s wife also helped to set the tone of the campaign. "We devised an English country home style," a Rossmann spokesman said, "using colours like pine green and royal blue."

Frau Schröder – the Chancellor’s third wife - gave a lengthy interview for the Rossmann customer magazine explaining her sudden interest in dog design. "Holly was a real bundle of energy and used to chew her way through everything within minutes," said the 41-year-old former journalist. "I wasted a lot of money that way."

So she proposed the design of inexpensive dog products, named after her pet. The first to hit the chain of 150 stores was an advent calendar containing dog treats. It pictured Holly in a Santa Claus hat.

This is the latest setback for Herr Schröder, who is trying to promote a warmer image to prepare for a difficult pre-election year. The Chancellor, who has no natural children from his four marriages, recently adopted a three-year-old Russian orphan. He is under criticism from political critics for allegedly being too beholden to President Putin, who fast-tracked the adoption. At the age of 60, the Chancellor would not normally have been considered.

Now the Holly saga has also turned around to bite Herr Schröder. A spokesman for Rossmann commented: "Our dog articles come from Germany, Western Europe and the Far East — it is not possible to be more specific."