Germany's new Dog Act improves welfare in the home
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Written: August 2020 by Josephine Bell of The Dogs House Bucks, dog care and boarding
The UK used to have a Dog License system in place, but this was scrapped in 1987 and has to some extent been replaced by mandatory microchipping. In terms of animal welfare laws, in the UK it's only legit dog minders who now need to be licensed and rated by their County Council. Germany, as ever, is going one step further with a comprehensive set of protective measures under new legislation for dogs at home under owners' care. Will Germany's new dog welfare set an example for the UK despite leaving the EU?
“Pets are not cuddly toys. They also have their own needs, which need to be taken into account”. These are the words of the German Agricultural Minister Julia Klockner. Klockner proposes to enforce a new animal welfare ordinance, a draft of which has already been drawn up and could become the law early next year. This new ordinance has been named the Hundeverordnung, or Dogs Act and will be introduced in 2021.
The new law requires dog owners to walk their dog twice a day for a minimum of one hour in total. Klockner believes that many of Germany’s 9.4 million dogs are not getting enough exercise. Mindful of this, the new Dogs Act is designed to ensure that all dogs get sufficient exercise and contact with environmental stimuli, such as nature, other animals, and people.
The new rules also get quite specific in order to outlaw poor welfare practice. Tethering of dogs on leads, or chains, for long periods of time also faces an all-out ban. Dog breeders will no longer be permitted to have more than three litters of puppies at one time. This would help to ensure that each puppy gets four hours of human company each day. In addition to this a ban on showing dogs that have been bred to have certain characteristics - which can cause health problems - there will also be a ban on the showing of dogs that have had their ears or tails docked. It will also be against the law to leave your dog alone all day.
However, this new ordinance will require each of Germany’s 16 states to be responsible for its enforcement. This proposed ordinance has sparked much discussion in the German Press since some see this paternalism as going a step too far. Many Germans see this law as being unrealistic since the amount of walking a dog should get will obviously depend on its age, breed and general health. The weather conditions would also have to be taken into consideration since dogs should not be walked during the day in the kind of temperatures experienced during this summer’s heatwave. Given the fact that 19% of German households have at least one dog, who would check upon them? A spokesman for the Agricultural Ministry has admitted that it was not very likely that private dog owners would receive police visits to check whether their dog had been taken for a walk. The concern would be more on the welfare of dogs kept in kennels.
Dog lovers will no doubt this new dog welfare law as being a definite step in the right direction. However, how successful these enforcements would be, and whether the UK would be likely to follow suit remains to be seen. These new laws will surely create an opportunity and demand in Germany for day dog care, for dog minding and walking when owners are away from home or at work. If and when owners return to work post-Covid, many dogs acquired during lockdown will not be used to being left for long periods. UK charity The Dogs Trust reports how demand for animals soared during lockdown. The charity estimates that we could see up to 40,000 more abandoned pets as owners struggle to afford upkeep as redundancy and jobs loss rise.
To read the latest about dog minder licenses in the UK, see my other blog article.