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.