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Austria oks ‘doggy driving licence’

DOG OWNERS in Austria are being encouraged to take a ‘driving licence’ for their animals to improve relations between humans and canines.

A two-hour exam will test how tolerant owners are of other animals and whether they understand the etiquette of dog-ownership, as well as determine their fitness as dog owners.

In a 150-question, multiple-choice written examination, dog owners in Vienna are to be challenged on topics such as why a dog wags its tail, what it means when it yawns, and whether it is a good idea to take it on a shopping trip. The exam also has a practical element where owners are put through their practical paces, having to prove they can put a muzzle on a dog, pick up its droppings and take the dog on the underground system safely.

The licence, a ‘hundeführerschein’ was introduced by Vienna's environmental councillor, Ulli Sima, who said “We are trying to improve the way in which dogs function in the capital as well as testing their and their owners' social skills. In so doing we're satisfying the safety needs of the population."

The focus, she said, was on "social tolerance rather than pure obedience".

The licence, which costs the equivalent of £18 has been introduced in response to a recent questionnaire in which 85 per cent of Viennese said the behaviour of dogs and their owners was poor. In another survey, 34 per cent said they felt "threatened" in the presence of dogs.

Owners who pass the driving licence will be exempt from the city’s annual £32 dog tax.