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Attack Dog Owners Abandon Animals

June 30, 2000

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ Animal shelters across Germany reported a flood of abandoned attack dogs Friday after authorities scrambled to tighten restrictions on the animals in response to the fatal mauling of a 6-year-old boy.

Officials said owners were ditching dogs after Germany’s states agreed Wednesday to new rules on ownership. The measures include a ban on anyone with a criminal record owning attack dogs, which are a favorite of underworld figures and neo-Nazis. Cities have also moved to jack up license fees for attack dogs and fines for illegal owners.

In Hamburg, where a pit bull and a Staffordshire terrier attacked and killed a 6-year-old Turkish boy in a schoolyard Monday, police said a man unloaded an attack dog Friday at a police precinct and disappeared.

At a city dog shelter, Wolfgang Poggendorf said he refused to take 16 attack dogs whose owners wanted to turn them in. ``They should first try to get permission to keep them,″ he said.

But that could mean more dogs will be abandoned. Hamburg proposed a city ordinance this week raising the price of a license for attack dogs to $600 a year and requiring the dogs be leashed and muzzled when taken outdoors. Violators face fines up to $50,000.

In Berlin, where city officials ordered leashes and muzzles on Wednesday, dog catchers snared 10 abandoned attack dogs over the past two days. Spokeswoman Carola Ruff said city dog pounds were filled to capacity, also because many people had abandoned pets before the summer holidays.

Parliament took up the topic Friday, with lawmakers across the political spectrum backing government plans for tough nationwide measures against owning, breeding and importing the dogs.

Interior Minister Otto Schily, addressing lawmakers, declared attack dogs a public threat that justified ``the sharpest methods.″ Wolfgang Bosbach, a legislator for the opposition Christian Democrats, assailed dog owners ``who no longer have their senses″ and keep ``weapons on four legs.″

German officials proposed nationwide bans on the breeding and import of attack dogs and other measures Wednesday, including possible jail time for violators. Schily, who had been advocating a ban for months, said the measures would be drafted and presented to the Cabinet in two weeks.

Some attack dog owners were lying low, apparently afraid of getting caught up in the national outrage about the boy’s death if they took their animals out.

In Frankfurt, which already has stringent rules on attack dog ownership, city official Rolf Menzer said fewer of the dogs were spotted in the city since the Hamburg attack. ``Owners of attack dogs are showing up less in public,″ he said.

Frankfurt tightened its rules on dangerous animals in 1997 after an elderly woman was killed by an American Staffordshire. Menzer said 175 illegally owned attack dogs had been confiscated since then.

In Wiesbaden, the city’s animal protection office said attack dog owners were calling to get advice because the public has become so aggressive toward them.

``Many are afraid that their dogs will be taken away from them,″ spokeswoman Tuulikki Schroeder said. ``We are already totally overflowing with dogs. This is still going to be a major problem for us,″ she said.

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