Berlin’s Getting a Leash Law

Berlin’s dog owners will be subject to stricter leash laws beginning January 1after a series of public hearings designed to quell complaints about Vierbeiner (four-legged friend), according to the Tagesspiegel.

Dog owners will have to keep all dogs leashed at all times with some notable exceptions: Owners who have kept dogs off-leash for three years without any trouble and owners who have attended an obedience class and obtained a Hundeführerschein, which literally means dog driver’s license, according to the article.

In the license, a certified trainer confirms that both dog and owner know how to behave without a leash but the training and the subsequent test can reportedly cost up to €400. Those who have owned a dog peacefully for three years can ask for the necessary Sachkundebescheinigung, or competency certificate, from individual districts – no word on how easy it will be to get an appointment.

The new laws actually went on the books in mid-2016 but only a requirement for carrying excrement bags as well as a ban on selling dogs at flea markets went into immediate effect. Details of other aspects of the 34-paragraph law had to be worked out, leading to the delay. The laws emerged from public hearings called by former justice senator Thomas Heilmann (CDU) to address ongoing complaints about dogs and dog owners.

Whether the new laws will be enforced remains to be seen: “Our code enforcement officers are already overworked,” politician Johannes Martin (CDU) told the paper. He represents Marzahn-Hellersdorf but said the officers might occasionally ask for documents.

According to the Tagesspiegel, the new laws may not even be necessary. The number of dog-bite complaints has dropped by two-thirds from the turn of the century to 576 last year. Though, for dog haters, that’s probably still too many.

Despite the extra time, not all details are clear. The leash law was modeled after Hamburg and Lower Saxony, which introduced similar regulations in 2007 and 2013, respectively. In Hamburg, only people with licenses can walk dogs while in Lower Saxony a single license is good for a whole family.

The new law requires dog trainers to be approved by the city’s veterinary regulator and it also calls for the certification of dog walking services – they must be approved businesses and also have a Hundeführerschein. The city will also keep a central register of dogs to get a better overview of dogs that have bitten in the past.


Photo thanks Christoph Schirrmacher via Creative Commons

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