Betteln mit Hunden: Tierschutzaspekte und amtstierärztliche Überwachung durch die Stadt München, Deutschland
Berliner und Münchener Tierärztliche Wochenschrift 135, 1–8
© Schlütersche Fachmedien GmbH. 2022
Eingereicht: 14. Dezember 2021
Akzeptiert: 25. April 2022
In recent years, dogs have increasingly been used for begging in Munich (Bavaria, Germany). Especially at events such as the Munich Oktoberfest or Christmas markets people are found sitting on the ground with a dog and begging for money. The dogs are tied with a short leash for a long time, and often neither water nor weather protection is available. Sometimes the dogs are very young, ill or injured. In the period from 2015 to 2019, the Munich Veterinary Office performed 326 individual controls of 113 dogs. Animal welfare violations were found in 78 cases and animal health violations in 26 cases. The Munich Veterinary Office, together with the Chair for Animal Welfare, Ethology, Animal Hygiene and Husbandry at LMU Munich, developed measures to facilitate controls and improve animal welfare. These include the prohibition to use dogs that are younger than twelve months, that are ill or injured, that are in the last third of pregnancy or that show signs of fear or distress. Furthermore, adequate protection from weather and permanent supply of drinking water must be ensured during begging. In addition, it is not permitted to wrap dogs in a blanket in such a way that they cannot free themselves and to expose them to stressors from which they cannot withdraw. After issuance of an information flyer translated into various languages in 2019, there was no further increase in violations of the German Animal Welfare Act; in particular, fewer puppies and young dogs were found during controls.
Seit einigen Jahren werden in München (Bayern, Deutschland) zunehmend Hunde gezielt zum Betteln eingesetzt. Insbesondere bei Veranstaltungen wie dem Münchner Oktoberfest oder bei Weihnachtsmärkten sind häufiger Personen anzutreffen, die sich zusammen mit einem Hund auf den Boden setzen und Geld erbetteln möchten. Die Hunde sind dabei über längere Zeit mit einer kurzen Leine fixiert, oft sind weder Wasser noch Witterungsschutz vorhanden, teilweise handelt es sich um Junghunde oder kranke Tiere. Im Zeitraum von 2015 bis 2019 wurden durch die Veterinärbehörde München 326 Einzelkontrollen von insgesamt 113 Hunden durchgeführt. Dabei wurden in 78 Fällen tierschutzrechtliche Verstöße und in 26 Fällen tierseuchenrechtliche Verstöße festgestellt. Die Veterinärbehörde hat zusammen mit dem Lehrstuhl für Tierschutz, Verhaltenskunde, Tierhygiene und Tierhaltung der LMU München Maßnahmen zur Erleichterung der Kontrollen und zur Verbesserung des Tierschutzes ausgearbeitet. Dazu zählt das Verbot, beim Betteln Hunde mitzuführen, die jünger als zwölf Monate oder krank bzw. verletzt sind, sich im letzten Drittel der Trächtigkeit befinden oder die Angst- und Stresssymptome zeigen. Des Weiteren ist für einen adäquaten Witterungsschutz und das permanente Angebot von Trinkwasser während des Bettelns zu sorgen. Es ist nicht erlaubt, Hunde während des Bettelns derart in eine Decke zu wickeln, dass sie sich aus eigener Kraft nicht daraus befreien können, und sie Stressoren auszusetzen, vor denen sie sich nicht zurückziehen können. Im Jahr 2019, nach Ausgabe eines Informationsflyers, der in verschiedene Sprachen übersetzt wurde, gab es keinen weiteren Anstieg von Verstößen gegen das Deutsche Tierschutzgesetz, insbesondere wurden weniger Welpen und Junghunde bei Kontrollen aufgefunden.
In Munich (Bavaria, Germany), just like in other German cities, a new animal welfare problem has developed: “Beggar dogs” accompany persons during their begging activity. Since the year 2013, an increase in begging with dogs has been noted in the city center of Munich (KVR Munich 2014). Especially during events such as the Munich Oktoberfest or Christmas markets, people are often found sitting with a dog on the ground and begging for money (Fig. 1).
In Munich, only silent begging (“humble begging”) is allowed. “Aggressive begging” in which beggars address and harass other people is prohibited. There is also a ban on begging in the pedestrian zone of the historic district and a ban on organized begging, begging in groups and begging when accompanied by children. Begging with animals is only prohibited if the required animal health proof is not carried (KVR Munich 2014) for dogs from other countries. In the case of dogs from other EU member states, this required document is the EU pet passport, in which the dog’s chip identification number and a valid rabies vaccination must be recorded (Article 6 of Regulation [EU] No. 576/2013, 2013).
According to Article 11 Section 1 Subsection 8 Item d) of the German Animal Welfare Act (2019), people who display animals for commercial purposes need a permit from the appropriate authorities. Bringing animals along for the purpose of collecting donations falls under the term of commercial display in accordance with this regulation (General Administrative Regulation 2000). However, when a person is begging with a dog, it is difficult to differentiate whether the dog is only accompanying the beggar or whether it is used specifically for begging and thus put on display for commercial purposes. The latter is the case if, for example, a beggar’s sign indicates that her or his dog is hungry and needs food, then the beggar needs a permit according to Article 11 Section 1 Subsection 8 Item d) of the German Animal Welfare Act (2019). If, on the other hand, someone begs without expressed reference to the accompanying dog, no permission is required. Nonetheless, dog keeping is subject to the general provisions of the German Animal Welfare Act (2019) and the special provisions of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2013) in Germany. However, because these provisions do not consider the specific situation of begging, the assessment of animal-welfare-relevant conditions in “beggar dogs” is not always clear. Clear violations of the owner’s obligations according to Article 2 of the German Animal Welfare Act (2019) are when the dogs are obviously ill, undernourished or neglected, when they are obviously freezing because there is no weather protection, or when they are restrained by being wrapped tightly in a blanket from which they cannot free themselves. An expert opinion from Erhard and Döring (2018) served as an evaluation aid for the official veterinary inspections.
The aim of the present publication was to evaluate the data collected by the veterinary inspectors during their controls and to share the experiences of the municipal veterinary office in Munich dealing with this animal welfare problem.
The municipal veterinary office in Munich, together with the responsible police stations, regularly checks people begging in the city center and near the Munich Oktoberfest. These controls take place either as required due to complaints from the population or as part of targeted control actions in the form of routine controls. Because the number of animal welfare inspections in Munich has increased in recent years, the “Animal Welfare Task Force” was introduced in 2015. The aim was to ensure that current animal welfare cases are processed promptly. For this purpose, alternating teams of two official veterinarians perform the task force service for one week. As part of the “beggar dog” control activity, the inspectors record the name and breed of the respective dog, the number of the EU pet passport, the dog’s country of origin, the date of the last rabies vaccination, the veterinarian who issued the EU pet passport, a photo of the animal and possible complaints, the name of the begging person and the name of the owner recorded in the EU pet passport.
In the period from 28th January 2015 to 31st December 2019, the “Animal Welfare Task Force” conducted 326 individual checks on 113 dogs. Many of the dogs have thus been checked several times.
Information on the dogs checked
There were 46 female and 67 male dogs (n=113) between four months and eleven years of age. Thirty-three dogs were found to be younger than twelve months. The number of newly registered young dogs more than tripled from 2016 to 2018 (Fig. 2). The mean age of these young dogs decreased from 7.5 months in 2016 to 6.3 months in 2018 (Table 1).
Regarding the breed, there were 83 mongrels and 30 pedigree dogs. The latter included 7 German Shepherds, 5 Huskies, 3 West Highland White Terriers, 2 Chow Chows, 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 Akita Inus and 1 Pekingese, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Shar Pei, Vizsla, Yorkshire Terrier, Beagle and St. Bernard each.
Violations of the German Animal Welfare Act
During the 326 individual controls, 78 violations of the German Animal Welfare Act were found (examples in Fig. 3). The number of animal welfare violations increased from 2 cases in 2015 to 26 cases in 2018 (Fig. 4). The violations mainly occurred in autumn (Table 2) when the Bavarian Oktoberfest took place.
In wintertime, “beggar dogs” were repeatedly found obviously freezing due to cold weather conditions, trembling and being in a hunched posture. These dogs only had a piece of cardboard to lie on, which was insufficient to protect them from the cold ground. The inspectors also found wet dogs, which mostly lay still on their spot and were very cold. To protect them from the cold, some beggars wrapped their dogs in blankets so tightly that the dogs were not able to free themselves from them (Fig. 3).
During several controls from 2015 to end of 2019, the inspectors found 23 dogs that had no water to drink. Even in the warm summer months, numerous beggars did not take any water with them, or the water bowl was found empty. When the beggars followed the request to fill the bowl with water, the dogs immediately emptied the whole bowl. During controls around the Oktoberfest in 2018, four “beggar dogs” even showed so much thirst that the amount of water carried by the accompanying persons was insufficient to quench the thirst of the dogs. This observation suggests that the dogs suffered from dehydration.
Several “beggar dogs” showed severe symptoms of fear and distress, expressed by fearful body language, such as flattened ears, low tail, body tremors, heavy panting and escape attempts (e.g., struggling). Triggers were, for example, large gatherings of people or loud noises. Near the Oktoberfest, 3 out of 20 controlled dogs showed pronounced signs of distress and fear (flattened ears, nervous behavior, reduced general wellbeing). In some dogs (2 of n=20), conspicuously submissive behavior towards the begging person was observed, which could indicate a poor dog–owner relationship.
Several dogs were injured or ill and needed veterinary treatment (example in Fig. 3). During the controls, the inspectors found a severely injured dog with an untreated fractured thigh in 2018 and an obviously sick dog with an untreated heartworm disease in 2019. Furthermore, two cases of physical cruelty done by the beggars were recognized: In 2018, a highly pregnant bitch was abused by force (the owner kicked her with his foot), and in 2019, a small dog was mistreated by its owner, who threw him down onto the floor. This latter incidence was videotaped by a citizen. In these four cases, the dogs were taken away by the official veterinarians because of failure to provide necessary veterinary treatment or because of mistreatment, and a prohibition of keeping and care was ordered (see below).
The authorities received several complaints from citizens who suspected the dogs were being sedated. However, the controlled dogs showed normal behavior in this regard. During the controls, there was only one suspected case in 2019, but the toxicological examination (screening for a variety of substances at the Chair of Veterinary Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy at LMU Munich) showed a negative result. Due to the negative test results, there were no indications of recent medication or the intake of acutely effective toxins.
Violations of the Animal Health Law
During the 326 individual controls, 26 violations of the Animal Health Law were found in the context of bringing a dog to Germany without a valid rabies vaccination (Fig. 4). The animals were isolated in the quarantine station of the Munich animal shelter. The number of violations of the Animal Health Law did not increase between 2015 and 2019.
Suspicion of organized or gang-like begging
The dogs did not belong to homeless Munich habitants but to begging people from Southeastern Europe. An evaluation of the data for the period from 28th October 2015 to 05th October 2018 showed that 82 of 85 dogs had a Slovak EU pet passport. Of these dogs, 73% (60 of n=82) had received their EU pet passport and their vaccinations from the same married couple of veterinarians from Slovakia. In addition, it was often found (20 out of n=261 controls) that the personal data of the begging person did not match those of the person registered to be the owner in the EU pet passport. A further analysis of the data for the above-mentioned period showed that some beggars were found with different dogs when they were controlled multiple times:
- ten persons with two different dogs each
- three persons with three different dogs each
- two persons with four different dogs each.
In addition, several dogs with changing owners could be identified:
- eighteen dogs with one change of owner
- one dog with three changes of owner
- one dog with five changes of owner.
Measures taken by the authorities to protect “beggar dogs”
Measures in the event of violations in individual cases
In the case of first-time violations, the owner concerned was instructed and asked to remedy the deficiencies. In the case of serious violations, for example if an urgent visit to the veterinarian was indicated because of illness or injury, an oral order was issued in accordance with Article 16 a, Section 1, No. 1 of the German Animal Welfare Act. Because the beggars and their dogs usually changed locations, a follow-up check was not possible in many cases. In the case of very severe violations, the animals were removed. This happened four times in the period from 28th January 2015 to 31st December 2019: four dog keeping and care bans according to the German Animal Welfare Act (Article 16 a Section 1 Clause 2 No. 3) were ordered based on failure to provide necessary veterinary treatment or based on mistreatment (see above).
Considering the expert opinion of Erhard and Döring (2018), the Munich Veterinary Office compiled information in the form of a flyer (for content see Table 3) with the aim to make begging people aware of the animal welfare regulations regarding the handling and keeping of dogs. This flyer was translated into different languages and has been handed over to the respective beggars during the controls since mid-2019. The expert opinion and the flyer were also made available to the authorities of other cities with similar problems.
Results in the year 2019
In the year 2019, the number of dogs accompanying beggars decreased, especially the proportion of young dogs was reduced (Fig. 2). The number of animal welfare violations also fell for the first time in 2019 (Fig. 4).
With the increase in begging people from Southeastern European countries, the number of “beggar dogs” has also increased in Munich (KVR Munich 2014). The Munich Veterinary Office is responsible for elimination of animal welfare and animal health deficiencies in these dogs (Article 16a, German Animal Welfare Act, 2019; Article 24 Section 3, Animal Health Law, 2018). Taking dogs with you to begging activities cannot generally be prohibited under current law in Munich. However, the Animal Health Law and animal welfare regulations must be observed.
According to the Bavarian enforcement instructions for the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance, “keeping” is understood to mean regular accommodation of the dog, usually lasting several hours. If a dog is regularly kept on a leash next to its owner for several hours during begging, this situation can therefore be regarded as “keeping outdoors” and must meet the requirements of Article 4 of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2013). Accordingly, a dog is entitled to a shelter and a second sheltered, shady, thermally insulated place to lie down, which not only allows lying but also movement (Explanatory Memorandum to the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance 2000). This regulation applies not only to the keeping of dogs in a kennel or in tethered areas but generally to keeping dogs outdoors. If the owner is constantly changing location during begging, the dog must have at least one weather-protected, thermally insulated and in summer shaded place to lie down. Protection against the effects of weather must also be fulfilled in accordance with the German Animal Welfare Act (Article 2) because this measure represents part of appropriate care: The owner “has to take care of heat and cold protection” (Lorz and Metzger 2008). Because no pain, suffering or harm to accompanying dogs is acceptable in connection with begging, remedial action must be taken as soon as a dog shows signs of problems with thermoregulation, e.g., strong panting in the heat, body tremors and hunched posture in the cold. The sensitivity to weather influences varies individually and depends, among other things, on age, race, constitution, fur, physiological and health status, but also on humidity, air speed, and other environmental influences. The thermo-neutral zone is 15–20°C for long-haired dogs, 20–25°C for short-haired dogs and 10–15°C for Nordic dogs. If the outdoor temperature is outside this range, energy must be used for thermoregulation (Debraekeleer et al. 2003, Frank 2007). Puppies, geriatric and sick dogs have a reduced ability to maintain their body temperature (Jordan et al. 2016) and therefore particularly need appropriate weather protection.
According to Article 7 Section 7 of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2013), tethering is prohibited in a dog up to the age of twelve months, in a pregnant bitch in the last third of gestation, a suckling bitch, and a sick dog, if it can cause pain, suffering or harm. This prohibition is justified because tethering would represent a particular burden to these dogs and therefore violates animal welfare (Explanatory Memorandum to the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance 2000). Lorz and Metzger (2008) also state that experience has shown that these vulnerable groups of dogs are particularly burdened by being tied up. In contrast, it is not forbidden to keep these groups of dogs outdoors in kennels or in dog houses.
If dogs are regularly kept on a leash for several hours next to the begging person, this does not count as being tethered within the meaning of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2013). This is because when tethering, the leash is fixed to a stationary object, whereas when leashed, the dog is connected to a person (Lorz and Metzger 2008). However, the reasons that led to the rating of tethering as a particular burden for the above-mentioned groups of dogs also apply, according to the expert opinion of Erhard and Döring (2018), to “beggar dogs” who have to spend several hours a day quietly on a short leash. “Young dogs up to the age of one year [...] require a sufficient satisfaction of their play motivation and their curiosity behavior” (Explanatory Memorandum to the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance 2000). Exploration, curiosity, social play and imitating represent the essential content of life in canine youth (Feddersen-Petersen 1997). According to Feddersen-Petersen (1997), every dog has to learn social behavior from an early age, for which it needs free contact with other dogs, i.e., without a leash. Owing to their age, young dogs have a special need for social contact, environmental stimuli and play behavior. If this need is not met, behavior development may be impaired and behavior problems or disorders may arise. These special requirements for keeping a young dog are not met if the animal is regularly leashed next to its owner for several hours and has to lie quietly in a confined space for an extended period. The same applies to pregnant bitches in the last third of gestation, to (suckling) bitches with a litter and to sick or injured dogs. These animals are not suited for accompanying people during begging, because this activity can lead to pain, suffering and/or harm in the animals. The authors are therefore convinced that the prohibition of tethering should be applied analogously to dogs accompanying people during begging.
According to Article 8 of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2013), the caregiver must ensure that water is always available in sufficient quantity and quality in the whereabouts of the dog, regardless of whether the dog is kept inside or outside. Therefore, if the dog stays in the same place for several hours next to its begging owner, a bowl filled with drinking water must be available for it. If there is a change of location during begging, the owner has to bring along water and a bowl for regular provision to the dog as required by the Explanatory Memorandum to the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance (2000).
Forcing a dog into a certain posture, e.g., by wrapping it tightly in a blanket from which the dog cannot free itself on its own represents a violation of animal welfare. Furthermore, every dog has the right to sufficient outdoor exercise outside of a kennel or a tethered area (Article 2 of the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance 2013). According to Lorz and Metzger (2008), the dog must be able to move freely outdoors. Dog exercise is therefore more than just walking on a leash or being let out onto a balcony or into a backyard. The exercise should be allowed outdoors at least twice a day and should not be less than one hour a day (Explanatory Memorandum to the German Animal Welfare Dog Ordinance 2000). The minimum time of one hour represents only the lower limit (Lorz and Metzger 2008). Therefore, begging people should be informed that their dogs must be given appropriate exercise opportunities, if possible with free-range, and must not be kept on a short leash all day.
During their checks, the official veterinarians in Munich found that some of the dogs showed signs of fear and distress. In particular when people seek to beg near crowds of people, there is a risk that the dogs will be overwhelmed. Loud noises as well as the proximity to strangers, busy streets or other places that appear threatening to dogs (e.g., noisy construction sites) must therefore be avoided. Dogs exposed to these stimuli on a short leash cannot withdraw. This means that they cannot protect themselves from stressors when they are overwhelmed or need rest. Because dogs must not be inflicted with pain, suffering or harm when accompanying people who are begging (Article 1 of the German Animal Welfare Act 2019), it is unacceptable for them to be exposed to stressors that cause fear and distress. If a dog shows signs of fear or distress such as a crouched body position, flattened ears, low tail, body tremors, strong panting, attempts to escape (such as struggling or tugging at the leash) etc., immediate action must be taken to improve the animal’s situation. To protect dogs from stressors as a preventive measure, prohibitions and minimum distances should be established. It should be prohibited to bring dogs to begging locations among crowds of people, such as folk festivals, Christmas markets, concerts and demonstrations, and a minimum distance must be maintained from such gatherings of people. Minimum distances to sidewalks that are heavily frequented by passers-by and streets with heavy traffic should also be specified.
The data showed that the majority of EU pet passports were issued by the same pair of veterinarians in Slovakia, that there were many beggars with changing dogs and that there were frequent changes of ownership. It is therefore reasonable to assume that begging with dogs in Munich is an organized activity.
In the year 2019, fewer beggar dogs were encountered than in previous years, especially the percentage of young dogs decreased. This was probably the result of the information flyer that was distributed in this year. However, our data are not sufficient to definitely prove this assumption.
Taking dogs to begging activities can lead to various animal welfare problems. In addition to the regulation in individual cases, it can make sense to issue general prohibitions. These should concern a ban on begging with young dogs, highly pregnant or sick animals, a ban on begging with dogs in crowds or near other stressors, and the establishment of a minimum standard such as constant availability of weather protection and drinking water. In Munich, the number of animal welfare violations decreased after the introduction of an information flyer that was given to the begging people in the appropriate national language. In particular, begging with puppies and young dogs decreased.
Recommendations for the control of “beggar dogs”
When checking dogs accompanying people during begging, the following aspects should be considered:
- Checking the nutritional, care and health status of the dog
- Is there a sheltered, shady place to lie down, with a thermally insulated ground space on which the dog can lie and remain dry?
- Is there water available in a bowl?
- Is it a dog that must not be tethered (dog under twelve months, bitch in the last third of gestation, suckling bitch, sick dog)?
- Is the dog showing any signs of thermoregulation problems?
- Is the dog showing signs of fear or distress?
- Does the dog show signs of fear or severe submissiveness towards the caregiver, whereas it behaves normally towards strangers? Are there any indications of inappropriate handling of the dog or of abuse by the beggar?
- Is the dog sedated? You should get the dog up and running while recording it on video.
- Is the dog forcibly restrained (e.g., by being wrapped tightly in a blanket, by being held on the lap) so that it cannot free itself on its own?
We thank Dr. Florian Walsch, Dr. Florian Hofmaier, Dr. Johanna Zipplies, Dr. Kristin Steigerwald and Dr. Roswitha Ziegler for supporting the veterinary controls and Dr. Armin Riedl for supporting the project. Furthermore, we thank Verena Lietze (Science Language Editor) for professional proofreading of the manuscript.
The authors affirm that they have met the general rules of good scientific practice concerning their work. They declare that no research interventions or experiments with animals or human beings were conducted.
Conflict of interest statement
None of the authors has any financial or personal relationships with people or organizations that could inappropriately influence or bias the content of this paper.
The authors declare that they had no financial support for this publication.
Conception of the work (DD, SC, MHE), data collection, analysis and interpretation (SC, DD), draft manuscript (DD, SC, MHE), critical revision of the article (DD, SC, MHE), final approval of the version intended for publication (DD, SC, MHE).
Address for correspondence
Lehrstuhl für Tierschutz, Verhaltenskunde, Tierhygiene und Tierhaltung
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KVR Munich (2014): Sicherheitsrechtliche Allgemeinverfügung über die Untersagung bestimmter Formen des Bettelns in Teilen des Stadtgebietes München. Kreisverwaltungsreferat der Landeshauptstadt München. Öffentlich bekanntgegeben im Amtsblatt der Landeshauptstadt München vom 11.08.2014. http://www.muenchen.de/dienstleistungsfinder/muenchen/1083015/ (Accessed 28.10.2021).
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