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October 2000

A Short Leash

Laws give some breeds less of a fighting chance

Dogs may be man’s best friends but they have received a lot of unfriendly publicity this year, particularly since a six-year-old boy was killed by two “fighting” dogs (Kampfhunde) in Hamburg in June. So what are the rules for keeping them?
Every dog in Germany must be registered within two weeks of buying it or of moving to a new city. A dog tax (Hundesteuer) must be paid, in Munich currently DM 150 a year per dog (DM 1,200 for “fighting” dogs). Contact the Kassen- und Steueramt, Herzog-Wilhelm-Strasse 11, 80331 Munich, Tel. 233-26297. If you live outside Munich, contact your local authority (Gemeinde).
Your four-legged friend is required to wear its dog tag (Steuermarke) at all times outside your home. As its owner, you must keep your pet under control in public, and also clear up any messes he makes. The rumor that paying the dog tax excuses you from this latter obligation is untrue. In Munich, there is no general rule that dogs must be kept on a lead or be muzzled in public. However, certain public areas, such as parks, can enforce such restrictions. The authorities can also apply them to any individual dog.
German law deems you personally liable for any damage or accidents caused by your dog, whether or not you yourself did anything wrong. The only exceptions are guide dogs for the blind or working dogs (farm dogs, but not guard dogs). In these cases, owners are liable only if they themselves were at fault. As a result, it is advisable (though not yet compulsory) to take out liability insurance (Tierhalterhaftpflicht) for your dog since, unlike cats, they are not covered on your personal liability policy. Such insurance costs from around DM 130 a year. For details, see the September 2000 issue of Test magazine. Very few companies offer insurance for “fighting” dogs.
A special license is required to keep a “fighting” dog. Since 1992, Bavaria has had the strictest regulations in Germany. The fine for keeping such dogs illegally is up to DM 20,000; for illegal breeding, it is up to DM 100,000. “Fighting” dogs are divided into two main categories. Five breeds fall under Category 1 and are always regarded as dangerous. These include American Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers. To get a license for these dogs, you need a good reason to keep one; the police must certify that you are “reliable”; and an expert must certify the dog is not dangerous. Not a single license has been given since 1992, and only three such dogs are held legally in the city. They must be kept on a leash at all times.
Category 2 dogs — nine breeds, including Bull Terriers, Bull Mastiffs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks — are also presumed dangerous unless certified otherwise. Once given this so-called Negativ-Zeugnis, these dogs are no longer classified as “fighting” dogs and they qualify for the lower dog tax. Some 250 dogs are licensed as such in Munich. In addition to these specific breeds, the authorities can require any dog to undergo a test to prove that it is not dangerous — for example, in cases where there have been complaints about its behavior. Applications to keep “fighting” dogs in Munich must be made to the Amt für öffentliche Sicherheit und Ordnung, Tel. 233-21877. Outside Munich, contact your local authority.

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