A proposed amendment to Germany’s animal welfare ordinance would require that dog owners walk their dogs twice a day for a total of one hour.
Food and agriculture minister, Julia Klöeckner, will be introducing this ordinance next year because, as she noted, “Pets are not cuddly toys, their needs have to be considered,” adding that the animals must get sufficient exercise and not be left alone for the whole day.”
She also wants to ensure that dogs have “contact with environmental stimuli,” that can include with other animals, nature and people. The rules were based on new scientific findings that demonstrate dogs need a lot more exercise and stimulation than they are receiving now.
According to the ministry the ordinance—called Hundeverordnung, or Dogs Act—would require that the country’s 9.4 million dogs be allowed “outside of a kennel at least twice a day for a total of at least one hour.” So dogs cannot also be left alone at home all day, and a person will be required to take care of their dog “several times a day.”
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If the law passes, a spokeswoman for the agricultural ministry has said the authorities in each of Germany’s 16 states will be responsible for enforcement. But how this ordinance would be enforced in another thing, with some dog owners worried that their neighbors might be reporting them to the authorities.
This news had many noting that such a blanket law doesn’t take into consideration that while all dogs need exercise, each dog is an individual. As Jason Mayhew, a leading UK trainer, said, “Each dog is different and will require a different level of physical activity depending on their breed, age, health. Putting a one-size-fits-all approach to this doesn’t work.” Senior dogs or those with health conditions might not only need less exercise, but might not be able to handle the one hour a day.
As was reported in the Guardian, this news evoked criticism within the dog circle of Klöeckner’s own party the Christian Democratic Union. Saskia Ludwig, a CDU MP who also sits in the state assembly for Brandenburg in Potsdam, said “the current heatwave meant it was not suitable for dogs to be out for so long.” And tweeted “I will not be taking my Rhodesian Ridgeback for two rounds of walks in 32 degree heat, rather we will jump in the river for a refreshing cool down instead.”
But in reporting in the BBC a spokeswoman for the agriculture ministry said, " it was very unlikely private dog owners would receive police visits to check whether they had taken their pooch for a walk. She said the emphasis would be on ensuring that dogs kept in kennels were treated well.”
There are other important parts of this draft law that would ban tethering, and deal more directly with dog breeding, including a requirement that all breeders provide puppies with “a minimum of four hours” a day with human handling. Another provision would ban “exhibiting (i.e. showing) dogs who have torture breeding characteristics,” As NPR reported, “this might include breeds such as the French Bulldog or the Pug, which often have breathing problems due to their breeding for a short snout. The new rule is meant to remove incentives to breed such dogs and reduce demand for them, according to a ministry press release.” The ban extends to showing dogs who have had their ears or tail docked as well. “Animals are not there to meet the questionable aesthetic wishes of their owners. They are not mascots,” minister Klöeckner added.
It seems that mandating dog walking has elicited the greatest howls from the German public, fearing the government’s intrusion into their methods of canine care. In contrast, observers of humane policy applaud the governments willingness to explore bold and “out of the box” measures to improve the lives of animals.