A change to Germany’s law which could force dog owners to take their dog for a walk twice a day has been proposed by Germany’s Agriculture Ministry, and it has caught the attention of dog owners well beyond the country. But what does the law mean, and is there any chance of it spreading further?
It is part of a wider drive to establish stricter dog ownership rules in the European country, which would also affect puppy farming and care issues. Some of the issues under the proposed laws included in the Hundeverordnung would be:
- Owners to take their dogs for walks twice a day for a minimum of one hour in total
- Dogs cannot be chained for long periods of time
- Owners cannot leave dogs alone the whole day
- Banning breeders from looking after more than three litters at any one time
- Puppies have to spend ~4 hours in human company per day for socialisation
- A ban on showing dogs with docked tails or ears
Why Are The Laws Being Proposed?
Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said that all of the plans were based on expert advice, ensuring that animals are protected under welfare rules.
The draft has been drawn up and could become law as early as next year, where it will be up to the individual German states to enforce it. While those behind the motion have said that it would be unlikely that the rules would be enforced by the police, the emphasis is being placed on dogs kept in kennels.
But the ministry has been on the receiving end of some criticism. Journalists and political commentators have ridiculed the proposals, referring to it as a Nanny State idea and saying that because it is unenforceable, it is pointless. 19% of German households own dogs, with around 9.4 million in the country, and there are fears that many could end up being abandoned if owners can’t follow the rules.
Dog owners in Germany also took to Twitter to criticise the move, saying that every dog has different needs and just because theirs is not walked twice per day does not mean that they are not cared for. There was also criticism towards the Agriculture Ministry for their lack of farm animal welfare, with some suggesting picking on dog owners was an “easy target”.
— Lijo bleibt zu Hause 🏡 (@lijo2323) August 18, 2020
#Gassipflicht nur dass da nicht der Hund, sondern das Schwein in der Pfanne verrückt wird.
— kasch (@ambrosianuss) August 17, 2020
However, as seeing that the rules will not necessarily apply to ordinary dog owners and instead to kennels and breeders, it is thought a lot of the reaction has been blown out of proportion and may not affect them once passed.
“A dog should be given exercise outside of a kennel at least twice a day for a total of at least one hour in the open (e.g. walk, exercise in the garden, etc.),” states the press release on the ministry website, suggesting that it is a law for owners who keep their dog caged for whatever reason.
There is also information in the release about improving the welfare of herding and working dogs (especially given the resettlement of wolves in Germany), and preventing the breeding of dogs with agony breeding traits to prevent increased demand for the characteristics.
Could The Laws Be Brought In Here In The UK?
All British pet owners have a legal duty to ensure their pet is well looked after.
All domestic animals have the legal right to the Five Freedoms:
- Live in a suitable environment
- Eat a suitable diet
- Be allowed to exhibit normal behaviour
- Be housed appropriately when it comes to sharing with other animals
- Be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Owners can be taken to court if this is not the case and can face a prison sentence of up to six months, with a fine of up to £20,000. Pets can be taken away, and they can be banned from owning any in the future.
There are no laws regarding the rules around dog walking here in the UK, but it is recommended that owners follow breed-specific guidelines and use their own judgement based on how much exercise their dog gets.
When it comes to breeding, regulations in 2018 reduced the threshold from 5 litters before requiring a licence to 3 litters. Anybody “breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period” must be licensed. So, Germany is somewhat following the UK’s lead.
As for the other laws included in the proposals, tail and ear docking is against the law in the UK, so shows will usually not accept dogs with this and showing them could be illegal. While it is not against the law to keep dogs outside, there are strong recommendations against it with advice on how it can be done safely.
There are currently no plans to bring in stricter laws surrounding dog walking here in Britain, but once the law is passed in Germany, it could cause animal welfare charities and governments to try and follow suit. If you agree with the laws, it could even be worth starting the fight to change them…