GERMAN CHANCELLOR Gerhard Schroder faces possible defeat as Germany goes to the polls this Sunday September 18th.
Schroder became a hate figure for anti-BSL campaigners in Germany and around the world after his Social Democrat Federal Government introduced the infamous breed specific ‘Kampfehunde’ laws in 2000 after a spate of highly publicised dog attacks which included the death of a six year-old boy who was attacked by a drug dealer’s trained fighting dog.
Schroder even amended the German Constitution to remove certain civil rights from dog owners, so that police can enter a dog owner’s home without a warrant to seize any dog that is merely alleged to be ‘dangerous’. However, if the police wish to enter the home of a rapist or murder suspect, they must obtain a warrant beforehand.
Schroder survived political defeat in 2002 by forming an alliance with the Green Party, but has since fallen from favour with a large section of the German electorate over rising unemployment and inflation. He is facing a strong challenge from the Christian Democrats, led by Angela Merkel who may well become Germany’s first female Chancellor after Sunday’s poll.
However, the number of German voters uncertain how they'll vote on Sept. 18 has grown to a third of the electorate, the highest a week before the election since reunification between East and West Germany in 1990. At the same point of the 2002 campaign, a quarter of voters hadn't made up their minds.
The uncertainty stems from a combination of disaffection with Schroder's government of Social Democrats and the Greens, under which unemployment has risen to the highest levels since World War II, and doubts about whether the Christian Democratic Union's Merkel can improve things.
Schroder has decided to go to the polls a year earlier than necessary, due to his party’s abysmal performance in recent regional elections which has greatly undermined his authority.
Hundreds of German dog owners have made it clear that they will vote tactically to remove Schroder from power, citing the draconian dog laws as their over-riding reason for doing so.
The Chancellor and his wife were criticised earlier this year for allowing their Border Terrier Holly to be used to promote canine products made in China. German businesses and trade groups have expressed anger at the Schroders’ backing for Winston Holly products, from water bowls to winter coats. Named for the Schroders’ 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 Schroder’s, the Chancellor and his wife, Doris, have infuriated the pet industry. "Frau Schroder 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."
Schroder has always maintained a "couldn’t care less" stance to the feelings of dog owners – even though, of course, he owns a dog himself and has never felt that the measures introduced by the Federal Government and States Governments have gone too far. But perhaps his referring to owners of so-called ‘dangerous breeds’ as "dog fighters" and "criminals" and his assault on their constitutional rights may well tip the scales against him.
As was observed in the recent anti-BSL campaign in Ontario: "At the end of every dog lead there’s a voter!"