To us, our dogs are important members of the family. And of course, they’re more than just the ones who sleep on our laps or cuddle at the foot of our beds. Dogs, just like any person, need regular exercise and outdoor access. Sometimes they need to be outside, exposed to the smells and sights.
Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner, feels strongly about this. She introduced a new law requiring Germans to take their dogs out for at least one hour, twice per day. Klöckner says the country’s 9.4 million dogs don’t get the proper exercise or stimuli they need. She pointed out:
“Dogs are not cuddly toys. They also have their own needs, which need to be taken into account.”
Hundeverordnung, or the “Dog’s Act,” also includes stricter regulations for dog breeders and the prohibition of “tethering” a dog. It will come into effect next year (2021.)
Naturally, most people’s first question was: who will enforce this? 19% of German households contain pups. A spokeswoman for the agricultural ministry indicated that the authorities in each of Germany’s 16 states will be responsible for enforcing the law.
Not Everyone Supports This Measure
While it seems like a good idea in theory, the proposal inspired quite a lively debate amongst Germans. In addition to concerns regarding enforcement, one valid argument factors in a current summer heatwave. Intense heat can negatively affect dogs on longer walks. Sometimes, based on weather conditions, you need to adjust how your dog gets exercise.
Saskia Ludwig, also a member of the Christian Democratic Union Party Klöckner belongs to, tweeted:
“(English translation) VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE: I will not be taking my Rhodesian Ridgeback for two rounds of walks in 32 degrees heat, rather we will jump in the river for a refreshing cool down instead.”
The Guardian quoted a distraught Berlin citizen who lives with a Yorkshire terrier named Sam. She believes there should be a little more nuance in the law.
“I find it patronising to be told how long I should take my dog out for. And who is going to check up on me? Will the neighbour call the police if they suspect me of not taking Sam for long enough walks? He wouldn’t manage two hours a day anway.”
Walther Schweiz, the father to a 14-year-old Alsatian named Blu, also protests the law. Blu has cancer, and can pretty much just take short walks close to his home in Cologne. Schweiz said:
“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.”
A draft of the bill, however, includes: “Exercise and social contacts are to be adapted to the breed, age and health of the dog.”
So, what’s the balance between not walking your dog enough and walking them too much? How do we make sure animals are getting the freedom to explore instead of being cooped up all day? Obviously, the issue is more complicated than a law that says walk your pup 2 hours a day.