German Dog Shows in Chaos
Story and show photos by Vince Hogan, Editor-in-Chief of OUR DOGS newspaper, www.ourdogs.co.uk
Chaos has hit the German dog-show scene following the enactment of a new law entitled The Animal Welfare Act, which has forced the outright cancellation of two shows already and decimated a third.
It’s a situation that one American social media commentator said “could never happen in the USA” as “Americans wouldn’t stand for it.” But there is a sense of irony here bearing in mind that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has its headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. People in Europe are waking up to the fact that it appears nowhere is safe, even for decent, caring breeders of many breeds.
German exhibitors have claimed that new regulations introduced in their country could lead to Germany even becoming “dog free” and dog shows becoming extinct due to draconian veterinary requirements before you can even consider entering a dog show. Don’t just think it’s the usual attacks on brachycephalic breeds, because the list of breeds affected will surprise you.
All this has come about because of a new set of laws embodied in the “Animal Welfare Ordinance” (Tierschutzhundeverodnung), which came into force at the start of 2022 and has tightened the rules for dog breeding and therefore made it more difficult for exhibitors to show their dogs.
The regulation, which was delayed by Covid, was initiated by politician Julia Klöckner (apparently a Labradoodle owner herself) when she was the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture. She has been reported as saying that “animals are not there to meet the questionable aesthetic wishes of their owners.”
There has been much debate in Europe as to the source or inspiration (if that’s the right word) of the laws in the first instance … either activists like PETA or a new regime of vets who have grown up in the era of attack against purebred pedigree dogs, believing that crossbreeds are “healthier” … OR IS IT BOTH?
Above: The busy main ring at Dortmund International dog show. Below: The VDH, or German kennel club, back-room team at Dortmund.
George Kostopoulos from Greece is a well-known breeder and FCI judge. He said, “On the occasion of what happened recently in Germany (where many breeds are obliged to go through veterinary examinations requiring general anesthesia, in order to be shown at dog shows) and what has already happened in Norway (where English Bulldogs and Cavaliers are actually banned from breeding, as unhealthy breeds) and before in Holland (where all short-nosed breeds are actually banned from breeding under new testing requirements), there is an ever-growing concern spreading all over the pedigree dog world. Are we getting attacked? Is the attack justified or not? Is there an organized plan against us, or there are actual reasons for this criticism?”
Better times gone by for German dog enthusiasts.
As many people have bemoaned over the last few weeks … why is it that the dog people most likely to take care, breed healthy stock and follow all the regulations are then the ones either targeted or who fall foul of legislation?
Yes, we all agree that any bad breeding practices should be curtailed, but targeting show people seems to defeat the purpose, while back-street breeders and cockle-doodle-doo breeders seem to carry on unabated!
Well-known U.K. vet and past chairman of the U.K. Kennel Club professor Steve Dean said, “The news from Germany is disturbing. Their legislative activity is a thunderous echo of what we have already seen in the Netherlands, where legislation was aimed at brachycephalic breeds. They suffered something similar in the U.K. in the recent past, when the government of the day used breed-specific legislation in an attempt to stem the apparent rising tide of dog attacks. In that case, a rather bizarre attempt to define a breed type led to the Dangerous Dogs Act, and many innocent dogs have suffered as a result. It is difficult to see how dogs will benefit from the German approach to establishing high welfare standards. They have taken the legislative approach to a different level.”
One worrying aspect of these laws is the possible ripple effect across Europe, where countries border so closely and copy-cat legislation can easily proliferate.
Take Austria and Switzerland, for example: Both are German-speaking countries and also recent hosts of World and European dog shows … which would equally be affected if new rules were brought into those countries. We hear Austria has initiated similar draft legislation and is at consultation stage.
So, what are the laws and why are they affecting dog shows so badly?
The ordinance bans the exhibiting of dogs, stating:
“1. in which parts of the body, in particular ears or tail, have been completely or partially amputated in a manner contrary to the protection of the animal, or
2. in which for hereditary reasons
a) body parts or organs are missing or unsuitable for the proper use of the species or have been altered, resulting in pain, suffering or damage,
b) behavioural disorders associated with suffering occur,
c) any species-appropriate contact with conspecifics causes them or a conspecific pain or avoidable suffering or harm; or
d) the keeping is only possible with pain or avoidable suffering or leads to harm.
“The organizer and exhibitor shall be responsible for compliance with the requirements of the Ordinance. The veterinary office will pay particular attention to compliance with the Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance; violations may be punished with fines.” (The show organizer would be the one punishable, apparently.)
As a result of this, “Every dog entered for a show must undergo a general veterinary examination to identify any indications of hereditary disease in advance and the following form must be used to certify that the dog has no visible indications of ‘Torture Breeding’ (Qualzucht)” – their phrase.
For a large number of breeds, in addition to the general veterinary examination for visible indications of hereditary disease, they will also have to be inspected for hidden indications in advance of the show.
Those breeds are: American Cocker Spaniel, Australian Kelpie, Basset Hound, Boston Terrier, Bouvier des Flandres, Boxer, Cao de Agua Portugues (Portuguese Water Dog), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel*, Chihuahua*, Chinese Crested Dog, Chow-Chow, Coton de Tuléar, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Great Dane, German Pinscher, Doberman, English Bulldog, English Springer Spaniel, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Flat-Coated Retriever, French Bulldog, Dutch Shepherd Dog (rough-coated), Irish Wolfhound, Japanese Chin, Leonberger, Magyar Viszla, Miniature Bull Terrier, Pug, Pekingese, Polski Owczarek Podhalanski, Poodle, Saarloos Wolfhound, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dachshund, Czechoslovakian Wolfhound, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier*, Miniature Poodle* and the Miniature Schnauzer*.
The asterisk denotes, “In the presence of corresponding clinical symptoms in the general examination.”
The Leonberger (above) and Japanese Chin (below) are two breeds targeted by the new German legislation.
In addition, “Dogs whose vibrissae [whiskers – Ed.] have been shortened or removed cannot participate in the show.
“Dogs which are found to have indications of ‘Torture breeding’ during the show must leave the ring without being judged.
“The breed judges will implement the Breed Specific Instructions and pay particular attention to health and functionality in the breeds listed therein. The breeds listed in the BSI have been selected on the basis of the estimated risk of health-endangering exaggeration of breed characteristics and possible misleading interpretation of the standard.”
The Neumünster dog show in June has already been cancelled due to the new rules, with the organizers saying that they just cannot cope with the changes and also the problem of dealing with local vet officials. The cost to exhibitors for all these tests would be prohibitive. A major part of the problem seems to be interpretation, and the fact that Germany is divided into 12 regions/states known as Landes. Each area has its own vet officers, and it appears that there is no coordination or set rules for interpretation of the Act, hence confusion and disparity from one show to another, one region to another.
What a mess! And the $64,000 question … how does any of this help the health of dogs?
Onto Erfurt show in Germany, which had an entry of 4,000 dogs … pre-Act panic, that is. How many actually attended the show? Just 1,700 brave souls, who then had a wait of one and a half hours outside the showground while vets did their thing, checking every dog into the show. Judging delayed by the same amount of time, showground half empty, concessions did no business … it goes on. And also a ban on leaving your dogs in a crate inside the hall … what?
A busy German show … a thing of the past?
A number of breed clubs have already spoken out. The Deutscher Club für Leonberger Hunde (DCLH) has said that the rules were “a disaster for the breed.”
Breeding manager Natalie Mayer, who is also a vet, said, “The main problem is that each local veterinary office makes its own rules. Sometimes the Leos are listed, sometimes not. The facts if a dog has to be listed or not is based on 20-year-old studies.”
Mayer said the Leo is mainly on the list because of the suspected defects of the pectinate ligament of the eye. But, she added, “even the DOK, our local eye committee, doesn’t know the genetics for sure, or which grades are to exclude. I would not have a problem to ask eyes for breeding to have some statistics, but not to have the permission to show.”
She alleged that “the federal government is pushed by PETA, who wants to stop all shows ... all purebred dogs are ill in their opinion. As a veterinary I see the opposite each day at work.”
It also seems that dogs in all sports and disciplines come under this new Act.
So, what is anyone in power in dogs doing about it?
The German Kennel Club, the VDH, said in a statement,
“In Germany, animal protection policies are currently changing at a rapid pace. In particular, non-commercial organised dog breeding is massively affected by the practical implementation of laws and regulations in contrast to those who secretly and unrecognised breed dogs under the most undignified conditions. The situation changes almost daily.
“By the end of May 2022 at the latest, the German Kennel Club would like to give a first insight into what can be seen as positive and what is counterproductive and inform about the activities with which it is reacting and what a reasonable perspective for the future could look like. Before then, this is not possible in view of the still unclear and downright confusing situation.
“The situation remains unclear on the question of shows because every local state veterinarian decides about the practical questions of a theoretically oriented law at the moment.”
Sarah Boyd, public-affairs manager of the Club für Britische Hütehunde (Club for British Shepherd Dogs), said, “We are at a crossroads for quality dog breeding in Germany.
“Like the Kennel Club in the U.K., German dog breeders who value health, looks/standards and temperament in their dogs and breeding programs are working under the regulations of the VDH. The VDH organises regular dog shows for the general public to inform and enjoy, for breeders to show and for judges to select the best breeding material.
“Now all of them are under heavy attack from several local veterinarians and some organisations like PETA etc. All of a sudden it is assumed that all purebred dogs carry and show hereditary traits that make them suffer. Therefore, many very old breeds are completely banned from entering and attending any show at all.
“The remaining breeds are allowed to participate only if they are put through multiple, often unnecessary and ill-advised testing including anesthetics.”
The lead body for most European countries is the FCI, but as yet it has not shown any lead to fight the fast-encroaching menace of ill-thought-out laws that affect the dog people who compete for their titles and CACIBs. The FCI head office is in Belgium, but it is described as a regulatory body and recommends people deal with their NCO (national kennel club or organization). Judging by comments by individuals on social media, however, there seems to be a feeling among many that the FCI is not doing enough to help, but the FCI insists these matters are dealt with by the kennel clubs of the countries concerned.
It is a position that may come back to haunt them, as the salami effect takes place across Europe: With slice after slice appeasing the activists and vote-catching politicians, the dog-show game is whittled down.
At press time, an online petition against the Act in Germany has mustered more than 23,000 signatures, but more are needed to give the VDH some more credibility and bargaining power, although many see it as too little, too late.
Germany’s biggest show of the year is due to take place in Dortmund toward the end of May, and it will be interesting to see what happens to the entry, normally around 8,000 dogs. To enter the show there are special forms to complete and of course extensive vet checks.
The author covering a previous Dortmund show with Leipzig based breeder of Shih Tzu, Kati Wilke.
Many German exhibitors are expected to attend a demonstration over the weekend of the show in Dortmund to show the displeasure of the show-dog-owning public and opposition to the Act.
Dark days in Europe, not just through conflict between nations, but now man’s best friend is under threat in ways we would not have contemplated just a few weeks ago.
Definitely a case of WATCH THIS SPACE!