Twilight for Dog Shows in Austria?
This report from OUR DOGS magazine in the United Kingdom is courtesy of Dr. Andreas Schemel, Crufts vet, who was a judge at the show.
The annual three-day all-breed International Championship Show in Tulln, Austria, which drew an entry of 6,000 dogs, fell victim to last-minute actions and requirements by the local veterinary inspector representing the local county government.
This popular show, held about 30 miles outside of Vienna from September 30 to October 2, has been a well-attended family event visited by the general public for decades. Apart from the dog show, it also hosts a country fair with a separate cat show, all kinds of poultry and rabbits, ponies and a small fairground.
This official Austrian Kennel Club, or Österreichischer Kynologenverband (ÖKV), show, is organized by the ÖKV, but the license for holding the show at the fair center has to be granted by the local authorities. Maybe alarm bells should have started ringing when the license was not issued by the end of August, when entries were already coming in, but as Austrian bureaucracy is not known to be speedy, no concerns were raised.
Eventually the license was granted, but only a few days before the show the organizers received a letter from the local veterinarian inspector stating that all entered dogs in more than 80 breeds, ranging from Toy breeds to Working dogs and even some Gundogs, needed breed-specific veterinary certifications to prove that the dogs were not showing signs of “Quallzucht.” This almost untranslatable word, invented by animal-rights activists, is sometimes translated as “torture breeding.” It condemns breeding from stock that could result in suffering for the affected individual, and includes all species. This is very vaguely laid down in notorious and highly debatable animal-welfare legislation, but it has never been executed before. This law was passed about 10 years ago and has never caused a problem for dog shows before, as most breed clubs under the umbrella of the ÖKV already have strict breeding regulations in place.
Local regulations allow that any events involving animals fall under the jurisdiction of the local veterinary inspector, and newly appointed Dr. Klinger used his power to interpret the law in a particularly draconic way. The ÖKV — represented by its chairman, Dr. Michael Kreiner, a former veterinary inspector himself — tried to negotiate, but Dr. Klinger insisted on a hardline approach. This resulted in frantic phone calls and emails from thousands of exhibitors, many from abroad who could not even understand what was going on, as the requirements were only published in German. According to Elisabeth Manner, the chief executive of the ÖKV, this resulted in the cancellation of about a third of the entries, which needed to be reimbursed, causing a huge financial loss for the show.
There were some chaotic scenes at the entrance, which was only manned by untrained security staff. An exhibitor from Spain apparently wanted to show his Bulldog and was refused entry as he did not have the necessary documents. The owner insisted on being seen by the official veterinarian, and he confirmed that the dog did not show signs of “torture-breeding” but as the dog’s parents could have been affected, he still refused to let the dog into the show! Allegedly a German Shepherd exhibitor with his dogs was escorted off the showground by police. The dog had all the necessary health tests, including being clear of hip dysplasia, but the vet watching from the ringside decided the dog was showing undesirable conformation and insisted on having the dog removed.
All hairless Chinese Cresteds, Xoloitzcuintli and Peruvian Inca Orchids were not allowed into the show.
None of the entered Pugs turned up, fearing that even with health certification they would be refused entry to the show. Some brave French Bulldog exhibitors managed to gather together the necessary requirements and showed their dogs, but were eagerly watched from ringside by the official veterinarian, who even forced some exhibitors to take their dogs out of their crates, taking measurements and allegedly making derogatory comments about the dogs!
ÖKV Chairman Dr. Kreiner called the actions of the veterinarian “harassment in a biased way, grossly exceeding his authority.” The ÖKV will take legal steps to overturn the legality of his actions.
To make matters worse, literally a couple of days before the show, news arrived that some judges had received official fines from the local authorities for judging certain breeds at the same event last year! One judge from Croatia was fined 400 Euros for judging two Peruvian Inca Orchids or spend 24 hours in jail! This caused aggravation at the judges’ briefing on the morning of the first day of the show. However, the officials of the ÖKV confirmed that actions against individual judges are not lawful, and any legal action must be taken by the ÖKV.
However, the future of dog shows in Austria is in jeopardy if there is no guarantee from local governments that a similar scenario will not happen again. Sadly, it appears that a large number of exhibitors, mainly from abroad, have lost confidence in showing in Austria. At this point it is unclear if the damage can be mitigated.
Background to Events in Austria
OUR DOGS has been contacted by a number of concerned breeders in Austria. Our thanks to Celise Stone for supplying some background information as follows:
As previously reported in OUR DOGS in July, the new Animal Welfare Act in Austria was triggered on September 1, 2022. Austria already had strict animal-welfare regulations that included legislation on so-called “torture breeding,” which forbids any breeding “if it can be foreseen that the animals or their descendants will suffer from pain, injury, suffering or anxiety.” Symptoms listed in the regulation include, among others, shortness of breath due to short shape of skull (brachycephalic), spinal deformities and hairlessness.
Approximately two weeks prior to the International Dog Show Tulln, OUR DOGS understands that a private person by the name Walter Hohl filed complaint charges to 15 exhibitors, seven FCI judges and the organizers of the 2021 International Dog Show in Tulln based on data he was able to retrieve from the publicly available online catalog.
Breeds indicted include, among others, the Peruvian Inca Orchid, Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, Pug and French Bulldog.
After losing a lawsuit in Austrian courts filed against the Austrian Kennel Club and the FCI breeder of his French Bulldog, Walter Hohl seems to be leading a campaign against “torture breeding” in Austria, and his next step was filing these charges, since the current law allows breeding under what he claims is an “unlimited transitional provision” but it forbids the exhibition of animals with torture-breeding characteristics.
In his opinion, it seems, breeders visit dog breeding club shows to pick up “awards” that result in the improvement in the sale of offspring, and that this is the primary motivation of those who breed these “torture breeding” characteristics. He wants the Austrian Kennel Club to ban these breeds from being shown at dog shows in Austria.
During the week of September 19, exhibitors residing in Austria began to receive anonymous complaint charges with fines of 200 Euros for showing their dog at the International Dog Show in Tulln in November 2021. If the exhibitor in question was also listed in the database as an official Austrian Kennel Club breeder, local district administrative authorities were notified by the Tulln district administrative authority about the issuing of indictments and that the breeder in question should be controlled and audited for all necessary anti-torture breeding documentation as required by law.
In the same week, the president of the Austrian Kennel Club and FCI judges both domestic and international who judged the breeds in question during the International Dog show Tulln 2021 also began to receive anonymous indictments with fines of 400-plus Euros for violating the animal-welfare act by judging and promoting these “torture breeds” or risk 24 hours in jail!
Objections to the anonymous indictments have been filed.
Austrian breeder Andrea Pelz-Pemberton told OUR DOGS:
“I can only keep repeating myself: If the FCI and its state organizations don't finally start taking their job as a breed dog organization seriously instead of running a huge travel agency, the issue of breed dog breeding will soon be over.
“The radical animal-welfare organizations that want to force us to bring stray dogs into the country en masse instead of stopping the uncontrolled reproduction in the suburbs have organized it and go ahead purposefully and are well planned against the pedigree dog breeding.
“It's sad that these organizations know exactly how lobbying works. FCI officials obviously don't know this. Sad! This finally clears the field for uncontrolled breeding, any ‘designer mixes’ and backyard breeders!”
… And Now the Good News
A successful international kennel club meeting was held last week in Amsterdam, and at last we have a long-awaited positive move to defend the position of pedigree dogs in Europe.
Kennel club representatives from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands joined forces in a two-day meeting on September 28 and 29 to stand up for purebred dogs in Europe.
The meeting started with presentations by the eight kennel clubs present about the structure, main tasks, business figures and main challenges they are currently facing. The main topics discussed were:
• Health, welfare and data sharing in relation to various legislation issues
• The situation in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands in relation to national restrictions
• The situation of kennel clubs after Covid
• National heritage in relation to kennel-club activities
• Exchange of scientific information
• European lobbying
The next meeting of the group is to take place at the beginning of 2023 in Italy. In the meantime, the group has said that it will work on different topics, and the participants say that they are very pleased with the start of this collaboration and will work together in the best interests of pedigree dogs in Europe.
The kennel clubs involved so far are:
Dansk Kennel Klub (Denmark)
Suomen Kennelliitto (Finland)
Société Centrale Canine (France)
Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia (Italy)
Norsk Kennel Klub (Norway)
Svenska Kennelklubben (Sweden)
Raad van Beheer (Netherlands)
A version of this article first appeared in OUR DOGS magazine on October 7.