German police dogs fired after ban on “pulling collars” | Germany


Berlin police dogs trained to attack the perpetrators have been put on hiatus, along with their handlers, due to contradictions between the methods used to control them and a new law to prevent dog cruelty.

The use of pulled collars to channel the assault of a police dog towards an agitator or a potential criminal violates the law, introduced by the former Minister of Agriculture, which came into force on January 1.

Police said about 49 dogs, out of around 130 used for operations ranging from arresting perpetrators to detecting drugs and explosives or locating missing persons, were suspended from duty until that a solution be found which would not involve law-breaking agents.

Police spokesperson Thilo Cablitz said: “We are currently unable to deploy some of our service dogs due to changes to the animal welfare law governing dogs.” Those suspended include dogs working alongside Special Forces, SEK, and those used to protect people as well as arrest offenders.

A sniffer dog leaves a house after a police raid in Leverkusen, Germany, in June 2021. Photograph: Thilo Schmülgen / Reuters

The training of “Schutzhunde”, or protection dogs, involves being able to control when a dog ends an attack, by briefly pulling on a “pull collar” to restrict the animal’s airways. The logic is that if a dog’s aggressiveness, seen as necessary for apprehension, is left unchecked, it could cause serious injury or death to the abuser.

Under the new ordinance, promulgated by the former Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner, the use of such punitive stimuli is no longer allowed in the training of dogs. While primarily introduced to improve dog ownership standards in Germany, the rules are intended to apply to all German dogs, including guard dogs.

The agriculture ministry said its decision was based on scientific studies showing that the punitive stimuli “contradict the concept of animal welfare.”

The law includes rules governing the comprehensive care and maintenance of dogs, from the size, temperature and ventilation of their kennel to breeding practices. Dog owners are responsible for bringing their pets on a regular basis, spending time with them, and ensuring that they are in contact with other dogs. Chaining dogs, except in certain circumstances and conditions, pinched collars and other equipment or practices considered to be pain-inducing, is prohibited.

Klöcker said the need for an update to existing legislation was long overdue, but became urgent during the pandemic as a growing number of people with no experience in pet ownership purchased of dogs and cases of abuse were rife. Pet shop owners and breeders should also be more responsible for the welfare of dogs, she said.

The law change has been known for months, but its effect on the day-to-day functioning of police attack dogs appears to have taken police and politicians by surprise.

Stephan Kelm, vice-president of the Berlin section of the police union, GdP, said a solution had to be found, as the suspension of the dogs would have “serious consequences for internal security”, and the union had called for the Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to intervene. He said the act affected forces across Germany. “We are totally open to innovative training methods, in which there is no need to inflict pain. But at the moment, we don’t know of any, ”he said.

Cablitz said police were having discussions with the Berlin Interior Ministry. “We are in dialogue with the ministry to find a solution,” he said. The Interior Ministry has yet to comment.


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