Higher Administrative Court decision

More freedom for dog "Kalle" from Sankt Augustin

MÜNSTER/SANKT AUGUSTIN. The city Sankt Augustin assumes that "Kalle" belongs to a dangerous dog breed. The dog owner from Sankt Augustin complained about it. Now the Higher Administrative Court in Münster has decided.

In regard to audible snoring, North Rhine-Westphalia's highest administrative court does not usually tolerate it. But the tired court visitor is a dog - and on this day the subject of dispute. The question in question actually is, which potential danger comes from "Kalle", the four-year-old Bulldog male, who has rolled himself up panting at the feet of his owner and sleeps through most of the trial.

For plaintiff and dog owner Sandra E. from Sankt Augustin in the Rhein-Sieg district, this day is about nothing less than the "freedom for Kalle" - and all his fellow dogs, who, as she thinks, would have to wear the stigma of being listed by the country as "dogs of a certain breed".

The North Rhine-Westphalian Dog Law provides for certain restrictions in the keeping of different breeds: The rules for dangerous dogs such as Pittbull Terriers are particularly strict. They may not be bred and traded - in the public debate there is also often talk about fighting dogs.

From the point of view of the authorities, "Kalle" belongs to a further category: Dogs like the American Bulldog or Rottweiler have a certain danger potential according to the legislator, as the judge explains. Their owners must apply for a permit and prove that they know their way around and have their animal under control. There is also an extended line obligation and possibly a muzzle obligation. Also in some municipalities higher dog taxes are demanded.

"Kalles" case to become a landmark decision

The city Sankt Augustin and with it the district veterinary office represented with "Kalles" first appraisal three years ago the opinion emerged that it has characteristics of an American Bulldog. He was thus categorized as subject to conditions.

"I am stamped. The dog is stamped", Sandra E. explains why she went to court. Her animal is harmless. "He's totally sweet and humane," she says, patting the brawny head with the wrinkled snout. He is simply a typical "Old English Bulldog" - a cross, but lacking recognition in Europe as an independent breed. "It depends on the other end of the leash whether a dog is dangerous or not", she explains, why she considers the listing of the legislator basically superfluous.

Mathias Deutsch, chairman of the Club für Olde Bulldogges in Germany, also emphasises this. He had hoped that the "Kalle" case would become a landmark decision and that the breed would now be recognised as such by the court. There are more than a thousand "Old English Bulldogs" in Germany, according to him, far more in the USA.

But the question of race recognition will not be decided in principle by the judges on Tuesday. They merely make it clear: Whether a cross of different dogs ends up on the list of dogs subject to conditions or not depends less on the gene pool than on the phenotypic characteristics. Only when the breed in question is clearly recognisable as problematic can the stricter conditions also apply to the animal, emphasises the Senate.

Fortunately for "Kalle": A veterinarian who testifies as an expert leaves no doubt that the 53 centimetre high and almost 37 kilo heavy dog is a borderline case, but still too unlike an American Bulldog. He is muscular, has a slender hip and a prominent skull. But in the end it is his comparatively compact stature and his short legs that change things: "'Kalle' is only a big dog", not one with a particular potential for danger, the presiding judge announces in the afternoon. "He can be kept like a shepherd dog, Labrador or any other family dog."

Original text: dpa, Translation: Mareike Graepel