Germany wants to make people walk their dogs for 1 hour a day — but not everyone can
'15 minutes, and then he's done,' says columnist Titus Arnu of his elderly pooch
Titus Arnu isn't sure how he's going to follow a proposed German law mandating dog owners to walk their furry friends twice a day for a total of one hour.
It's not that he doesn't have time, or that he wants to flout the rules. It's just that he doesn't think his 14-year-old Labrador Bruno is up to the task.
"The younger one, he's very happy to walk with me any time. But the older one, he is OK with 10 or 15 minutes, and then he's done and wants to go home," Arnu told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
Arnu wrote about the new proposal in a column for the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
'Pets are not cuddly toys'
German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner announced this week she had taken expert advice and was introducing a law to ensure dogs go for a walk or run in the garden at least twice a day for a total of an hour, adding pets must get sufficient exercise and not be left alone for too long.
The proposed rule is part a larger bill called the Animal Welfare Dog Regulation, which also includes regulations for breeding and transporting animals.
"Pets are not cuddly toys," Kloeckner said. "Their needs have to be considered."
It's not clear yet how Germany would enforce the dog walking requirements, or what the consequences would be for those who fail to follow them.
The idea has proven divisive. The newspaper Bild printed an op-ed calling the proposal "rubbish."
Arnu, meanwhile, says he understands the government has dogs' wellbeing at heart.
"There are still many people who are not taking care of the animals in a proper way. They don't treat them as they should be treated. And that's the main reason, I think, they came up with this law," he said.
Still, he said there needs to be room for discretion.
"I think it depends on the dog," Arnu said.
People who work with dogs in Germany are echoing that sentiment.
Udo Kopernik, a spokesman for the VDH German Dog Association, told Reuters: "One rule for all dogs is probably well-meant, but unrealistic."
Dog trainer Anja Striegel said the amount of exercise a dog needs depends on its health, age and breed.
"For a young, fit Labrador, two hours of walkies are healthier than for an arthritic pug with heart problems," she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
The proposed law has spurred a debate about whether the state can decide what's best for the country's 9.4 million pooches, and how such a law could even be enforced.
"The police wouldn't do it," Arnu said. "Who even wants to control it?"
Written by Lito Howse and Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview with Titus Arnu produced by Kate Swoger.