Laws Target Criminals and Owners Pay Special Taxes
DogsBite.org - Every now and again, a surprising email arrives at DogsBite.org from a foreign country. This one is sure to inspire new ideas about regulating dangerous dog breeds. In May, a reader from Germany sent in a description of breed-specific legislation in Germany. We used Google Translate to convert the German Wikipedia page mentioned in the description, which also describes breed-specific laws in Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Denmark and France.
To briefly summarize, in Germany it is difficult for non-law abiding citizens to own pit bulls. Jurisdictions can also create a special tax for pit bulls and other dangerous dogs. Nürnberg, for instance, charges pit bull owners an annual tax of over $1,300 U.S. dollars. In Germany, a combination of federal, state and local laws restricts the importation, trading and breeding of pit bulls and often prohibits ownership by individuals with perilous (criminal, addiction) backgrounds.
Despite staggering observed evidence in the U.S. that pit bulls are the "breed of choice" for criminals, particularly drug-related criminals,1 and have been since the 1980s,2 and that police officers are routinely forced to shoot dangerous pit bulls during the line of duty, DogsBite.org has not run across one jurisdiction in the U.S. since the launch of this website that prohibits these types of criminals from owning this dog breed. Germany's approach directly tackles this problem.
The attack that sparked public outcry in Germany to ban "combat" dogs involved a pit bull and a Staffordshire terrier brutally killing a 6-year old boy on a school playing field in Hamburg in 2000. "We can't allow children to be put in danger simply because of the quirks of a few dog owners," Interior Minister Otto Schily said in response. "You cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that these dogs are dangerous." Hundreds took to the streets demanding government action.
It is a fascinating read. Comments are open to anonymous commenters.
Dear Dogsbite.org members,
As I appreciate your efforts to increase the safety of American citizens, I would like to report some efficent examples of breed-specific legislation in Germany.
1. Executive summary
Pit bulls owners in Germany are subject to multiple restrictions:
- Breeding, selling and trading of pit bulls is prohibited. Only adopting is allowed.
- They must get a written permission from the Animal Control Officer before adopting a pit bull under the following restrictions:a.) They must prove their ability to handle the dogb.) They must not have a criminal record nor a drug addictionc.) They often have to pay a special tax
2. General overview
Since the 1990s, when some fatal pit bull attacks occurred on public streets, the ownership of dangerous dogs in Germany has been gradually regulated by dog laws.
- The importing and trading of pit bulls is prohibited by German federal law unless the owner provides a local permission to have a pit bull.
- Animal breeding is subject to state legislation, so each of the 16 states in Germany has its own dog law that prohibits the breeding of dangerous dogs.
- Of the 16 German states, 15 have breed-specific legislation. 15 states restrict pit bulls, 5 states restrict rottweilers and 1 state restricts dobermans. (just count the red and green cells)
- In Austria, 3 of 9 states have breed-specific legislation and in Switzerland, 12 of 25 states have breed-specific legislation. In Geneva, for example, 15 breeds are prohibited, with an exception for pre-ban animals.
3. One example of a state-specific dog law
The state of Saxony has one of the shortest dog laws, so I will translate the most important restrictions:
Article 1Dangerous dogs are those that
- Belong to a dangerous breed (American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier) unless a certified veterinarian has proven their good character
- Have ever attacked humans or other animals
Article 2Breeding of dangerous dogs is prohibited
Article 3Buying and selling of dangerous dogs is prohibited
Article 4Training dogs to attack humans is prohibited
Article 5Keeping dangerous dogs requires a license which is only granted to adults who fit the legal conditions
- Must be over 18 years old, must prove knowledge of how to handle a dog, must have insurance and must keep the dog on a fenced property
- Dogs bought in 2000 or earlier may be kept without a written license if the other conditions are met
- County officers may prevent individuals from keeping or breeding a dangerous dog
- Dangerous dogs may not annoy other people
- Dog owner's property must be labelled "Beware of the dog"
- County officers may check dog owner's property
Article 6Dangerous dogs must be leashed and muzzled when in public
Article 7The dog owner must notify the officer when he abandons his dog
Article 8The owner of a dangerous dog must pass a written exam in order to prove theoretical knowledge of how to handle his dog
- Who have once been convicted to more than 60 days in prison with or without probation (= or an equal fine which is calculated according to days in prison) or
- Who have twice been convicted to less than 60 days in prison with or without probation within in the last five years, not including the time in prison itself
- Who are addicted to alcohol or drugs
- Who are mentally or physically disabled may not own a dangerous dog
Article 10Cities may impose a special dog tax for dangerous dogs (= about 600 EUR per year)
Article 11Breeding of dangerous dogs and ordering the dog to attack may be punished with two years in prison
Article 12Keeping a dangerous dog without permission, without proper fence or without leash, allowing them to run on playgrounds or owning more than one dangeous dog may be punished with up to 25,000 EUR fine.
Article 13Officers may enter private houses in order to check the dogs (= a modest infringement of constitutional rights for reasons of public safety)
Article 14Local dog restrictions (= e.g. in parks) may be added according to legal authorization
Article 15This law is valid on August 25th, 2000
4. Other dog laws
Other German states have similar conditions for owning a dangerous dog. These dog laws may impose a written request for owning a pit bull.
- More restricted breeds
- Another definition of criminal record
- Restrictions for homeless people who cannot have a pit bull in Thuringia, for example.
German cities may impose a dog tax for the purpose of restricting the number of dogs. Several courts have approved higher taxes for pit bulls and other dangerous breeds. Of the 15 largest cities, 9 have a special pit bull tax while 6 do not.
"Dangerous dog tax" for pit bulls and other vicious dogs - Annual4 Nürnberg 1,056.00 EUR 1354.64 US Frankfurt am Main 900.00 EUR 1154.52 US Essen 852.00 EUR 1092.95 US München 800.00 EUR 1026.24 US Stuttgart 612.00 EUR 785.07 US Düsseldorf 600.00 EUR 769.68 US Hamburg 600.00 EUR 769.68 US Hannover 600.00 EUR 769.68 US Dortmund 432.00 EUR 554.17 US General dog tax for all breeds - Annual Köln 156.00 EUR 200.12 US Bremen 122.64 EUR 157.32 US Berlin 120.00 EUR 153.94 US Duisburg 114.00 EUR 146.24 US Dresden 108.00 EUR 138.54 US Leipzig 96.00 EUR 123.15 US
6. Impact on dog bites
Since the introduction of dangerous dog laws, which faced much opposition by dog owners, many pit bulls have been confiscated because the owner did not fit the legal requirements. After drug consumption or driving while drunk, pit bull owners automatically lose their license to own a dangerous dog. (A small group is trying to abolish the pit bull restrictions).
As a consequence of strict pit bull regulation, the number of pit bull attacks has decreased. The following spreadsheets shows the number of reported dog attacks in Berlin between 2001 and 2011 according to Claudia Hämmerling, State House of Representatives (she is not in favor of BSL).
This spreadsheet includes all reported cases where humans (=Menschen) have been charged (=angesprungen) or injured (=verletzt) by dogs.
2Page 4, recall this was published in 1987:
San Diego investigators also were told that local members of motorcycle gangs were stashing their drugs beneath the doghouses of their pit bulls. "Street dope dealers and street gangs have gone to pit bulls," says Budd Johnson, an inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service who is based in San Diego. Law enforcement officials are seeing the same thing all over the country, and the pit bull populations in urban areas..."
3The author provided additional notes on dog taxes and Breed-Specific Taxation (BST) in a follow up email.
- Bad Kohlgrub, a small town in Bavaria, has the highest "dangerous dog tax" in Germany: 2000 EUR per year (however with grandfathering).
I have focused on the 15 largest cities, because their suburbs and many small cities have a similar taxation system.
Taxation in small towns and villages is usually lower. However, it's not my intention to disclose the village with the lowest tax rate.
- Concerning the general dog tax, there is usually a 50% tax discount for service dogs, rescue dogs, farm dogs, welfare beneficiaries etc, and a temporary tax discount for shelter adoptions. However, vicious dogs are explicitly excluded from any discount.
- There is a logical contradiction between my explanations of Art. 10 and the dog tax rates:
Art. 10 - Cities may impose a special dog tax for dangerous dogs (= about 600 EUR per year)
Art. 10 - Cities may impose a special dog tax for dangerous dogs (= usually between 200 EUR and 2000 EUR per year)
4Exchange rate calculations of US dollars was performed on May 25, 2013.
08/29/11: Victoria Signals End to Unregistered Pit Bulls After Fatal Attack
02/06/10: Ecuador Joins International Trend: Bans Pit Bulls and Rottweilers as Pets