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Dog owners face written and practical tests

Published: 21 Mar 2012 14:51 GMT+01:00

Authorities in Lower Saxony passed a law last year requiring owners to prove their basic knowledge about dogs and for the pets to pass a behaviour test. Berlin may follow suit.

The Lower Saxony measure takes effect in 2013, although people who can prove they have owned a dog for at least two years since 2003 will be exempt.

Owners will be tested on their knowledge of dog owner rules and of dogs' needs in general. A practical test of the animal, which can be completed by a veterinarian, will also be required to show that the pet is socialized and not dangerous.

The rule also requires dog owners to have liability insurance for their pets and that dogs have an identification chip inserted under their skin.

Lower Saxony's agricultural ministry expects dog owners will have to pay around €350 to €550, depending on how much the vet charges, ministry spokesperson Natascha Manski told The Local.

Now Berlin’s authorities, having recorded significant increases in dog bites over the past few years, are working out how to introduce similar licensing rules.

The number of dog bites reported to authorities rose by 44 to 704 last year, compared to 2010 – a six percent increase. That follows a 30 percent rise in 2010 over 2009.

"That is clearly an alarm signal," Claudia Hämmerling, the animal rights spokeswoman for Berlin's Green party, told the Tagessppiegel newspaper. She noted that of the 704 bites reported, just 32 were attributable to ‘attack’ dog breeds.

Hämmerling, herself the owner of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, is working to get a licensing rule similar to that in Lower Saxony through the Berlin state government.

Under the bill being discussed dogs would be divided into three categories based on size and breed. Attack, hunting and herding dogs would be required to pass additional tests based on the breed's character.

There has been much discussion about the costs, the paper noted. Prices for the written exam would be around €25 and between €50 and €75 for the practical test.

Hämmerling, who met dog owners on Tuesday evening, said cooperation among the interested parties had been "superb." She did say that many were worried their beloved pet might be taken away if they fail to pass the test.

The Green party politician said she assured owners that the aim of the law was not to separate dog owners from their pets but to make sure people who own canines are responsible.

Asked whether someone would fail if their dog did not come on command, Hämmerling giggled and said: "Whose dog comes on command?" The idea is to show that the dogs are socialized and not a danger to people.

The Local/mw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

17:09 March 21, 2012 by catjones
When you see all the dogs in berlin running off their leash, enforcing current laws would reduce bites. Most of these owners are idiots and will ignore the new laws as well. Since the police do nothing with current laws, where's the fear of the new laws?

Just another tax on law-abiding people, plus my dog can't hold a pencil.
17:58 March 21, 2012 by rfwilson
The Nanny State strikes again! This is getting embarrassing. Fortunately, this law is not enforceable.
19:58 March 21, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Never ceases to amaze me. We have laws already to cover anti social dog owners. These laws are not used by the relevant authorities to curb the problem. Instead the answer is new laws. The mind boggles.
21:30 March 21, 2012 by frankiep
Here's a thought. How about actually ENFORCING the leash laws in those states that have them, and institute leash laws in those states which stupidly don't (like Hessen, for example). If leash laws were actually enforced it would make a huge difference, but of course that would be too simple of a solution for government bureaucrats who are always anxious to come up with unnecessary laws.
21:34 March 21, 2012 by Baynik
I propose these clever law-makers get themselves a garden and start working with their hands; it's obvious their minds don't function anymore or they have too much time on their hands to make life more complicated for those who actually do work!
21:49 March 21, 2012 by lucksi
I hope they also test the poop scoop ability of the dog owners and DNA test every dog and put it into a database and then check the droppings on the sidewalk and hand out €500 Euro fines.
22:11 March 21, 2012 by nemo999
All I can say is wtfah?
05:26 March 22, 2012 by tebow
How sad,I live in the USA and of course we watch what is going on elsewhere,God forbid this crazy law comes our way,enforcing leash laws would be a big start but like the US you got a knee jerk reaction,always new laws instead of enforcing laws on the books,could be you have the animal rights people influencing this,like the US with the HSUS and PETA they don't want anyone to have pets,it's considered bondage,so what better way than to make it near impossible to own a pet,we should have competency laws for those in politics,do you think that law would pass,I feel for you Germany,anyway you can fight what we call "city hall"
06:52 March 22, 2012 by blogboy
another way for the government to steal from their people. If you notice the law only grandfathers people who can prove they have a dog since 2003.
06:58 March 22, 2012 by green idea factory
What a stupid photo for this story...

Berlin dogs are so relatively well-behaved and socialized since they are allowed off-leash on pavements. In most parts of the city, they are also tolerated off-leash in parks though the rules forbid this. These regulations need to catch up with what people think.... there is this romantic idea that green-space protection laws prevent dogs from chasing foxes and whatnot. Dogs cannot catch foxes. It is ridiculous to get a fine from the Ordnungsamt early in the morning or when it's raining and no one is around.

The proposed costs for testing etc. in Berlin are reasonable, but at the same time the Hundesteuer needs to be abolished.
13:12 March 23, 2012 by raandy
Another ploy to garnish money from the public.

Some earlier post saying that no one enforces the regulations ,ie, dogs off leashes,

So true, and picking up the dog poop, it's everywhere and disgusting.

If they use the money they are proposing for dog licence and school,lol. then they at least could spend some on dog enforcement.

They enforce such things as wearing ear buds while riding a bike as I was confronted last week by the OA and threatened with busgeld the next time they had to tell me, all the time I was scraping the dog excrement of my bike tire and mildly complaining about it with out avail or interest by the OA folks.
14:18 March 24, 2012 by gunnyboy
There is absolutely no doubt that dogs are usually well behaved, but it does make sense to have owners trained in dog handling as well. This new law will ensure that.

One should see this show by Cesar Millan called "Dog Whisperer" on National Geographic. Dogs are so misunderstood by their owners that people blame dogs for bad behavior when the real problem is that owners do not know how to handle their dogs. Dogs are emotional creatures in every aspect - almost like us humans, which most owners do not realize.

This is a good move, considering the fact that dog bites increased by a huge percentage year-on-year. This will ensure that owners are also trained well in how to handle dogs, and innocent canines will not be blamed for the fault of their owners.
22:06 March 27, 2012 by Lblaney
A better money -maker would be to fine owners, say, 500 euros for having a dog off leash. That would curb the problem really fast. Then tack on 200 euros per turd and they'll be rolling in the dough.

It already costs quite a lot to keep a dog in Germany. The licensing fees are much higher than in the US and the leash laws are rarely enforced. When I walk with my two tiny dachshunds my main concern is that an off-leash dog will confront us. This happens pretty often and usually the owner is hundreds of yards away, chatting on a phone or lighting a cigarette. Chances are that concerned owner isn't bothering to pick up poops, either.
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