More than eight in ten want tougher dog laws

More than eighty per cent of Austrians want tougher dangerous dog laws, a new survey has shown.Pollsters Oekonsult interviewed 1,117 people for its research as a referendum over whether a so-called dog keepers’ licence should be introduced starts tomorrow (Thurs) in Vienna.The Oekonsult poll shows 83 per cent of the questioned backed “restrictive law changes for the protection of the people” when it comes to keeping dogs often labelled as dangerous such as Rottweilers, pit bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers.And 77.8 per cent said they were in favour of a federal ruling instead of all nine provinces having specific dog laws.Another result of the poll is that a majority thinks dog owners are responsible for their canines’ aggressive behaviour – 52.6 per cent back the theory.The news comes just days after two Rottweilers were put down after tearing their owner’s 78-year-old mother to pieces in Lassee, Lower Austria.Meanwhile in Rankweil, Vorarlberg, a four-year-old girl was recently hospitalised after she was mauled by her family’s American Staffordshire Terrier.Austrian dog magazine Wuff has been spearheading the campaign for a no vote in the Vienna referendum by circulating flyers on city streets showing two puppies sitting next to each other with one of them labelled “Böse” (evil).Wuff publisher Gerald Pötz said the purpose of the flyers was to draw attention to the possibility that Vienna might start to stigmatise certain breeds of dogs.Vets meanwhile warned of populism in the issue, and Vienna Social Democratic (SPÖ) Councillor Ulli Sima admitted figures available in Austria did not provide convincing evidence that breeds considered dangerous were responsible for large numbers of attacks.European figures however reveal that German shepherds are responsible for the majority of attacks – something which is also down to the breed’s massive popularity. The German shepherd is the second favourite dog among Austrians behind the Golden Retriever, while the Labrador is in third.Viennese opposition parties meanwhile attacked the city SPÖ, claiming it had started its election campaigning early by launching the referendum which runs until Saturday. The party is, according to polls, in danger of losing its absolute majority in this autumn’s city elections.Greens, the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) criticised the “ridiculous costs for tax payers” caused by the referendum as SPÖ bosses said the initiative costs 6.7 million Euros.Greens claimed they had been campaigning for an inner city road toll – one of the five questions posed in the referendum – for years, while the ÖVP accused the SPÖ of jumping on their bandwagon over a 24-hour service of underground trains on weekends.SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl said his party would regard results of the referendum – in which only Austrians with main residence in the capital can take part – as a mandate for changes.A final result can be expected for 24 February, officials said.