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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

The Local Austria
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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
City Councillor for Animal Welfare Jürgen Czernohorszky with the Vienna Dog Team. (© PID/Markus Wache)

Vienna announces new 'dog team' to check on dog owners, retail threatens strike, ÖBB trains disruptions from Sunday and more news from Austria on Friday.

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Vienna announces new 'dog team' to check on dog owners

In Vienna, dog owners will encounter a new regulatory body next year: the "dog team."

City Councillor for Animal Protection Jürgen Czernohorszky (SPÖ) introduced this new enforcement unit this Thursday. Their responsibilities will include patrolling parks and dog parks, offering guidance, and conducting inspections. If deemed necessary, the team members can issue fines of up to € 50.

The Viennese dog patrol is also empowered to report more severe violations. For instance, they will check adherence to leash and muzzle requirements. Around 20 individuals will be deployed across the city starting in 2024. Czernohorszky highlighted Vienna's status as a city of dog enthusiasts, with an estimated 57,000 dogs registered.

Owners must follow various regulations, such as ensuring their pets wear muzzles or leashes. Dogs must be microchipped and registered, and the requisite dog tax must be paid.

The team’s primary aim is to offer guidance, as assured by the city council. Members of the dog patrol wear distinct vests labelled "Hunde Team." They also carry identification and badges, and only trained personnel will be part of the team.

Additionally, the patrol will verify dog licenses, particularly for owners of so-called "listed dogs" categorised as dangerous. They can also give advice, for example, on how to reduce excessive barking.

Apart from educating owners about legal obligations, the dog patrol will also provide guidance on handling their furry companions. For instance, they offer advice on reducing excessive barking to avoid disturbing neighbours.

READ ALSO: Dog tax and insurance: What are Austria’s rules for owning pets?

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Retail threatens strike

As negotiations for the retail sector's collective agreement failed still in their fifth round, the prospects of reaching an agreement remain uncertain, Austrian media has reported. 

Without an agreement, the union plans to persist with warning strikes, possibly already this weekend, and protests but hasn't disclosed specific subsequent actions. 

The collective agreement for the retail sector significantly impacts the wages of approximately 430,000 employees and apprentices, the report added. Despite four negotiation rounds, workers and employers have not agreed on salary adjustments for 2024. 

The union is advocating for a raise equivalent to or higher than the annual inflation rate, which currently stands at 9.2 percent. On the other hand, employers have proposed a 6.0 percent increase and a one-time bonus of €1,000.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Austria’s new healthcare reform

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Two people died after a car accident on A2

A severe traffic accident occurred on Thursday along the southern highway (A2) towards Graz, between Leobersdorf in Baden and Wöllersdorf in the district of Wiener Neustadt. The police confirmed the deaths of two individuals and reported another person sustaining severe injuries.

The vehicle, driven by an 82-year-old resident from Klosterneuburg, reportedly swerved, for unknown reasons, from the second lane to the right, colliding with a guardrail. The car then rolled over several times before stopping on the road. The 81-year-old female passenger was trapped inside the vehicle and was rescued by the fire brigade.

The pensioner and his 56-year-old daughter died. Emergency helicopters were dispatched, and the critically injured woman was airlifted to the hospital. 

The affected section of the A2 highway remained closed due to the accident until shortly after 4:00 p.m., causing approximately a two-hour delay, with authorities recommending an extensive detour. By 5:15 p.m., following the conclusion of the necessary operations, all three lanes were reopened for traffic flow.

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Austria ends its suspension of aid to Palestinians

Austria announced it would end the suspension of aid to Palestinians in place since shortly after Hamas' deadly attack on Israel. The government said it found no indication that the funds were used to promote terrorism. 

"There is no indication that Austrian development projects funded by the ADA (Austrian Development Agency) were misused to fund or promote terrorism or to spread anti-Semitic content," Austria's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why did Austria vote against a Gaza ceasefire?

ÖBB train disruptions from Sunday

Recent snow-related accidents have resulted in disruptions to train services that will persist until mid-January, causing inconvenience for affected rail passengers, Austria's rail company ÖBB announced.

Four ÖBB Railjets incurred significant damage due to the winter conditions, making them non-operational for the time being. Because of that, some Railjets will be replaced with older carriages on the southern line starting from Sunday, which is why some "D-trains" will be cancelled.

The replacement coaches lack amenities like Wi-Fi but feature well-cushioned seats and could attract a niche group of nostalgic travellers, the company said.

According to the company, the temporary replacement coaches on the southern route almost match the regular Railjets in seating capacity. Catering services will be mobile, with no onboard restaurants, but a sales car will be available.

ÖBB confirmed that all bookings made through the ÖBB customer account remain valid despite train changes. Affected customers will receive direct email notifications about the alterations. ÖBB expresses regret for the inconvenience caused by the weather-related disruptions and aims to return to the regular schedule by mid-January 2024.

READ ALSO: Where are Austria’s best train stations?

If you have any questions about life in Austria, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

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