The legislation, called Hundeverordnung, or Dog Act, stipulates that dog owners must walk their dogs at least twice a day for a total of one hour. Meaning short walks around the block, or chaining up a dog outside just won’t cut it.
Germany’s Agriculture Minister has introduced the new law, claiming that Germany’s 9.4 million dogs are not getting the exercise or environmental stimulation they need.
"Dogs are not cuddly toys,” Minister Julia Klöckner is quoted as saying in The Guardian (opens in new tab). “They also have their own needs which need to be taken into account."
Klöckner said the new rules are based on scientific findings showing that dogs need a "sufficient measure of activity and contact with environmental stimuli" in order to thrive. They need contact with nature, other animals, and people.
The law will make leaving pets at home alone all day illegal, much to the joy of dogs all over Germany. The Ministry of Agriculture has said that authorities in Germany’s 16 states will be responsible for enforcing the law.
Also a part of this new legislation are rules impacting dog breeders and dog shows, and a stipulation that chaining dogs to a post outside will also be illegal.
As far as breeders, purebred dogs with characteristics called “agony breeding characteristics” — such as pugs who are notorious for developing breeding issues — will not be allowed to be shown at dog shows, making the breeding of these dogs much less desirable.
The plan hasn’t come without some criticism. Some dog owners in Germany expressed concern to the Guardian about how the law will be enforced, how it might affect animals with health conditions, and what will happen when the heat becomes too unbearable for long walks.
"I don't believe in regulation!" Helge Melzer, owner of a Golden Retriever, told the tabloid Bild. "Every dog
is different, has a different age, different diseases, and we have different climates. With the hot temperatures of the last few days, you shouldn't let your dog out for longer."
Saskia Ludwig, a minister within Klöckner’s own CDU party tweeted “VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE: I will not be taking my Rhodesian Ridgeback for two rounds of walks in 32 degrees (celsius) heat, rather we will jump in the river for a refreshing cool down instead.”
Walther Schweiz, owner of a cancer-ridden 14-year-old Alsatian named Blu says his dog is unable to take more than short walks close to his home in Cologne.
“They should trust people to get on with their own lives. They’ll be telling cat owners how often they need to change their litter trays next,” he said.
It has been suggested the new collection of regulations may be intended more specifically for dog breeders than the nearly one fifth of German citizens who own dogs.
Udo Kopernik, a spokesman for VDH, the German dog breeders' association, told the magazine der Spiegel (opens in new tab) that the rule would most likely impact dog breeders by ensuring minimum standards of care are upheld, but that it would likely have little or no impact on private citizens.
"A rule for all dogs is probably well meant, but unrealistic,” said Kopernik, in an interview with Bild.
Under the law, breeders will be restricted to raising a maximum of three litters, and puppies being bred must spend at least four hours per day being socialized with people.
The law is currently in draft form, and, if passed, will likely take effect sometime early next year.
Susan Arendt is a writer and editor with more than two decades of experience from companies including AOL, Conde Nast, and The New York Times. She currently resides in North Carolina with three dogs (Alice, Bridget, and Chloe) who, frankly, run her life.
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