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EXPLAINED: What are Austria's proposed new rules for owning pets?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What are Austria's proposed new rules for owning pets?
French bulldogs are among the breeds that could be considered 'torture breeding' in Austria (Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash)

From possibly banning pugs and "Frenchies" to stricter rules for guard dogs and mandatory training, here are the new rules Austria is proposing on pet ownership.

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Austria's government has announced a new "animal welfare package" with measures to tighten a ban on "torture breeding", mandatory training for dog owners and owners of exotic animals and stricter rules for guard dogs. 

 "With this legislative package, we are setting new standards for protecting pets and domestic animals. Attack and bite training will finally be strictly regulated as part of protection dog training. Compulsory training ensures owners know how to care for their animals properly," said Welfare Minister Johannes Rauch.

Rules against 'torture breeding'

The new package has new rules to prevent 'torture breeding' (Qualzucht) in the country, according to a ministry press release. 

The precise characteristics of banned breeds would be defined by a scientific commission, which would also examine the breeding programs of associations to support enforcement bodies, the ministry said. In that way, authorities will be able to take action against those who use such animals for breeding. 

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There is also an explicit ban on exhibiting and advertising animals that have "torture breeding" traits.

The government mentions "too short a muzzle, constant shortness of breath or broken joints" as traits of such breeds. Among German and Austrian veterinarians, the term "torture breeding" is used to define the explicit breeding of specific unhealthy characteristics in a dog breed, which results in the bred dogs having health problems and suffering throughout their lives.

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Dog breeds with short muzzles and breathing difficulties, most famously the Pug or the French or English Bulldog, are usually associated with torture breeding. 

However, other examples could also be of animals with spinal column issues (such as the Corgis and especially the Dachshund) or those bred to have blue-grey lighting of the coat, which can lead to severe skin inflammations, such as the Pit Bull, Great Dane, Australian Shepherd and many others. 

Giant or tiny breeds are also often referred to as torture breeds.

READ ALSO: How to move to Austria with your pets

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Strict regulations for guard dog training

Repeated dog attacks in Austria have led to a public debate on "dangerous" breeds and the training for guard dogs. 

With the new regulations, the animals trained for protection and their trainers must pass tests - otherwise, any biting or attack training is prohibited. The only exception is for federal service dogs, such as police dogs.

All dogs that are trained as guard dogs must undergo a mandatory character test and have a veterinary certificate. The minimum age of the dogs is 12 months. The character tests take place on-site at the clubs and are carried out by certified examiners, according to the Ministry.

"It is good that there are now strict but also practical rules for training.  Nobody wants trained dogs to fall into the wrong hands", said Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

READ ALSO: Reader question -  Are certain dog and cat breeds banned in Austria?

Owners will also have to provide a criminal record, and all persons involved in the training will require a proper certification in the future. 

Certification for pet owners

As the popularity of "exotic wild animals" rises, the federal government is introducing a four-hour certificate of competence for keeping amphibians, reptiles and parrots. Those who want to have dogs must go through an additional two-hour practical unit.

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