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Good news on Domino campaign [25/07/2002]

In a decision that will delight all dog lovers, the Senate of the Supreme Administration court in Berlin decided to cancel the directive of the state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) along with its list of 'dangerous' dog breeds. The Judges said that the content of the directive went too far for a directive that is made by a single minister.

So owners of Staffies, Dobermanns, Maremmas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks – in fact any dog over 16 inches high – will be breathing a sigh of relief. The ruling should see an end to muzzling, temperament tests, short leashes, and so on for breeds on the register living in Germany.

Last year there had been reports of holidaymakers' dogs being molested, with visitors reporting incidents where locals pointed out that their dog was on 'the list', and should be muzzled. Germany had even applied to the European Union to have the ban become law througout the Community. There was a real possibility that if it did, we would have had the same harsh laws in Britain.

Even more encouraging is the judges' condemnation of the infamous list of dogs that should be banned, covering 44 breeds ranging from Beaucerons to Tosa Inu. Whilst most authorities would have agreed that the Tosa, Pit Bull and Fila Brasileiro should be carefully watched and guarded, some of the breeds on the list didn't even exist. Yet anyone visiting German Police Stations might have been faced with a picture of their breed up on the wall, saying it was on the banned list as a dangerous dog.

Stating that there is no scientific evidence that any one dog breed is more dangerous than another, breed experts and scientists have both said that a dog is not dangerous because of its breed – rather that several factors would contribute; most notably if owners trained it to fight. For years Britain's Kennel Club had emphasised 'ban the deed – not the breed'.

As Kennel Club Staffordshire Bull Terrier Liaison officer, David Levy is delighted with the ruling, telling PetPlanet that "the decision of the Berlin court must be welcomed, not least because it perhaps represents the first time that German authorities have taken into account facts, rather than hysteria and rhetoric, when considering dog related legislation. This may only be a guide to the politicians that the methods they have used to introduce draconian laws against dog owners are unlawful, but some of the comments made by the judges do clearly indicate that the laws may well themselves be proven illegal when further cases are heard later this year."

However, there was one note of warning – Germany is split into Lander (Regions) and what one decides one day, another could go the opposite way the next; only a few weeks before the State of Brandenburg (next door to Berlin) had ruled in favour of the infamous breed list. So campaigners will continue to lobby for the German law to be completely over-ruled when the next cases come up, taking heart from the ruling in Berlin.

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