Stay! Germany denies reports of sausage dog ban

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A man walks his dogs at the 2015 OktoberfestImage source, Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

“Sausage Dogs to be banned in Germany,” screamed headlines in the UK this week.

Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper Bild went full circle, fascinated by the panic: “Brits Fear for the German Sausage Dog.”

The story arose from the German Kennels Association (VDH), which has launched a petition against a draft law that aims to clamp down on breeding that leads animals to suffer.

Will the dachshund or any other breed be banned? The short answer is no.

Under the proposed Animal Protection Act, certain traits would be defined in dogs that can cause “pain, suffering or damage”.

The VDH fears this could lead to a ban on breeding sausage dogs, because their short legs and elongated spine can lead to knee, hip and back problems. Other breeds, such as bulldogs or pugs, which can have breathing problems, could also be targeted, says the association.

“No dog breeds will be banned,” a spokesman for the Green-led agriculture ministry told me bluntly. “We want to prevent breeders from deforming dogs so much, that they suffer.”

The government’s argument is that dog breeds are continually developing and at risk of having increasingly extreme characteristics.

So breeding dogs with specific traits, such as skeletal abnormalities, that lead to suffering, poor health or a short life expectancy, would no longer be allowed. “Just because people find something new or aesthetically pleasing, animals shouldn’t be tormented,” said the ministry’s spokesman.

So-called “torture breeding” has been illegal in Germany for three decades. But until now the law has been vague and open to interpretation.

This new draft would give precise scientific criteria about what sort of breeding can lead to an animal suffering. Existing animals would be able to be kept but would not be allowed to breed or exhibit in shows.

“Torture breeding” is not in the interests of the dog, the owner or the breeder, argues the government, given that everyone wants these animals to live normal, healthy lives.

“There will always be sausage dogs,” the spokesman said. “We will just never see any with legs one centimetre long.”

Dachshunds, which can be translated as “badger dogs”, were bred in Germany for hunting. Their short legs and long body helped them burrow into holes.

Michael Lazaris of Vets on the Common, in London, says many as one in five Dachshunds suffer from intervertebral disc disease because of their elongated spines. Dachshunds can also suffer from chronic hip and knee problems due to their short legs.

Dr Lazaris advises buying puppies from responsible breeders and says that many genetic diseases can be bred out “by not using dogs with those specific health problems”. This is essentially the aim of the new German draft law.

Meanwhile the German branch of animal rights organisation Peta is indeed calling for a ban on 17 breeds, including sausage dogs, pugs and French bull dogs. English bull dogs are also on Peta’s list. An online petition calling for the draft law to include these breeds has almost 70,000 signatures so far.

Later this year the draft version of the Animal Protection Law will be put to the German cabinet and then to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.

With key regional elections across eastern Germany in September, there are bound to be more stories about bossy Greens supposedly banning well-loved German traditions. This story has legs.

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