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Tag: germany

Human poop poses problem for Berlin dogs

biodegradable pet waste bagsThe health hazards that unscooped dog waste in public places can pose to humans has been well-established, well-documented and well-hollered-about.

So — yucky as it is – it’s only right to share some news that shows the reverse side of the equation can be true, too.

According to a report from the German newspaper Tagesspiegel, dogs in Berlin are being sickened by human feces left in some public parks frequented by drug users.

Veterinarians say they’ve seen an increase in such poisonings.

Dogs who ingest the waste show symptoms that include shaking, dehydration and difficulty walking. Tests on dogs have found heroin and other illegal drugs present in their systems.

Vets say most cases took place in parks the city’s Treptow and Kreuzberg areas, where drug users are known to gather, especially at night.

Berlin-based veterinarian Reinhold Sassnau told Tagesspiegel that the poisonings are rarely fatal. Most dogs recover if they quickly receive treatment, which includes inducing vomiting. Otherwise, prolonged treatment might be required.

Just something to keep in mind next time you (or your dog) step in a  pile of dog poop (or is it?) at the park.

Ruffing it at Four Paws Kingdom

It took a couple from Germany to show America the true meaning of dog-friendly – at least when it comes to campgrounds.

It doesn’t mean fencing in a small strip of grass and calling it a dog park. It doesn’t mean welcoming dogs — only for a fee, or only in certain sizes, or only if you follow three pages of special dog rules.

It doesn’t mean seeing dogs as dollar signs. Dog friendliness isn’t simply tolerating dogs, but adoring them, as the proprietors of Four Paws Kingdom seem to do.

So abused and exploited is the term that Meik and Birgit Bartoschek have created their own for describing their 35-acre campground outside Rutherfordton, N.C., where dogs – though they don’t actually rule – are treated like royalty.

America’s first “dog-dedicated” campground, they call it.

With eight dog parks, a lake and a creek (both fenced in to allow dogs to play in them off-leash), two agility courses, bathhouses for both dogs and humans, regularly scheduled activities (also for both dogs and humans), it’s clear that Four Paws Kingdom – which in an unusual variation on a theme, doesn’t allow children – was clearly built with dogs in mind.

The Bartoschek’s — that’s Lucy, one of their two corgis, above — left their native Hamburg in the 1980s. Both had corporate careers, working for a consulting firm that trained employees for jobs in resorts. As part of those jobs, they’d visited 60 countries, but not America. So they chose it for a vacation.

“It was the only place that didn’t remind us of work,” Meik explained.

They liked what they saw of the U.S. and decided to move here

“We quit our jobs and said ‘lets start brand new,’” he said.

They settled in Florida, where Birgit worked as an artist. They’d travel a lot to attend art shows, always taking along the other corgi they had at the time, Schroeder.

“Schroeder went always with us, and that’s how we started camping,” Birgit said. “We brought a trailer so we can go with the dogs, because at that time dogs were not all that often allowed in motels. We saw a lot of campgrounds and we thought there was something missing. And that was doggie friendliness, doggie parks — not just a ten-foot-long stretch where dogs are allowed to pee where already a thousand dogs have already peed.”

They started dreaming of starting their own dog-friendly campground, and making a list of the features it should have, figuring that, with their combined experience in the hospitality industry and their other skills — Meik is a chef, and Birgit an artist and dog trainer — they could make it work.

(Birgit’s art — she paints on silk — is on sale in the lobby, and evident in other parts of the campground. The bathhouses, for instance, have pawprints running across the walls, and the hind ends of dogs painted on the toilet seat lids.)

After several months scouting locations, they settled on one they stumbled upon in North Carolina. They bought the land and started mapping out the campground.

“We were the crazy Germans going through the forest with a measuring tape … We didn’t tell anybody what we were planning to do,” Birgit said.

“We didn’t want to do the coporate treadmill anymore, we wanted to do something for ourselves,” Meik said. “We wanted to be the first. We knew there were corporations with more money than we had who could have put it out faster and even better. But, interestingly, after seven years  we are still the first and only dog dedicated campground. There are people who copy certain features we have. More and more campgrounds now say, ‘yeah we have a dog park,’ but look at their dog park and look at ours. It’s like if you drive a Kia or a Mercedes.”

In addition to its dog parks — for big dogs, small dogs, swimming dogs, wading dogs, even one for dogs who want to be alone – the campground has 41 RV sites, three cabins and three fully equipped rental trailers, one of which Ace and I, along with my 18-year-old son, stayed in over the weekend.

Birgit held an agility training class on Saturday morning, and there was a breakfast-for-dinner pot luck Saturday night, followed by a trivia quiz. Activities are scheduled just about every weekend, and every holiday is marked by special events, such as obedience classes, dog swimming classes, doggie massage, and fests for the people as well, including one in which Meik does a dead-on tribute to Dean Martin.

Ace loved it — from the agility class, to wading in the lake, to meeting the other dogs, to all the sleeping nooks in our trailer, the biggest of which he claimed for himself.

About 95 percent of visiting campers come with dogs, and of the 5 percent who don’t, many are former dog owners who — though they don’t see another dog in their future — still like to spend time around other people’s.

The campground, which opened seven years ago, allowed children for four years, but later decided to cater to adults and their dogs. Children between 3 and 14 aren’t permitted.

“For 95 percent of our visitors, their dogs are family,” Meik said. “Many people, 40 and over, have traded their kids for dogs.”

The campground does require dogs to be on leashes when not in off-leash areas, but with eight dog parks, there’s generally an off-leash area nearby. It also bans pit bulls and Rottweilers, because its insurance company requires it.

They’ve also stopped allowing tent camping, because too many dogs were getting loose.

“Dogs like to escape out of tents, or chew through tents,” Birgit noted. Added Meik, “There were quite a few sites where a dog was left in a tent, and all of the sudden the  tent was rolling across the ground like a tumbleweed. Our main priority has to be safety for the owners and the dogs, and the tent’s just not a sturdy enough entity to keep things safe.”

They also don’t hesitate to ask owners of a troublesome or aggressive dog to leave.

In addition to keeping the campground safe, the Bartoscheks are determined to keep it small.

“Any other campground owner would build at least 200 sites on the property. But we said no,” Birgit said. “We want to have nature.”

There’s plenty of that around, with deep woods in every direction.The campsites take up only a small bit of the land. All are named after dogs, and the first three were named after the Bartoschek’s corgis — Schroeder, Linus (deceased) and Lucy.

“With 35 acres, we could put in lots more campsites. We could pave parts over, but then we’d be like a Wal-Mart parking lot. Lots of peers say we should expand, but life isn’t all about bringing in money,” Meik said. “It’s about having a product or something you feel good about, where you get up in the morning and love what you do, and not just look at your bank account.”

Could cadaver dogs be replaced by vultures?

Skilled as dogs are at finding dead bodies, police in Germany think they’ve found an animal even more adept at the task.

Police in Walsrode, Germany, say they have trained a vulture named Sherlock to lead them to cadavers.

By placing a GPS device on his leg, they can track him and respond — I’d hope before he’s eaten too much of the evidence.

“If it works, it could save time because the birds can cover much more area than sniffer dogs or humans,” officer Rainer Herrmann told the Daily Mail.

The turkey vulture, a natural scavenger, feeds almost exclusively on carrion, finding its meals through keen vision and a sense of smell that allows it to detect the gasses produced during the decay of dead animals from as high as 3,000 feet in the air.

“‘It was a colleague of mine who got the idea from watching a nature programme,”  Herrmann said. ”

Sherlock can even find remains in woodland or in thick undergrowth. Unlike sniffer dogs, who need regular breaks, Sherlock doesn’t seem to get tired and can cover a far larger area.

Sherlock is being trained at Walsrode, the largest bird park in the world with 650 different species.

Trainers hope to assemble a squadron of crimefighting vultures, but — given that the vultures aren’t native to the area, would have to be raised from chicks to be tame, and require lots of training — it will be a while before they are called to duty.

Condo considers DNA tests to track poopers

DNA testing, which may have its place in crime solving — not to mention pinpointing your baby daddy — is increasingly being considered around the world as a way to nab dog owners who fail to pick up poop.

Now, in addition to government bodies from Germany to Israel, a ritzy Baltimore condominium is considering using the technology to help track down the owners of the dog or dogs who are not being picked up after.

Some residents of the Scarlett Place Condominiums are so steamed by dog poop — at least some of which is being deposited indoors – they’re willing to watch thousands of dollars be spent in an effort to figure out whodunit or, more appropriately, whodroppedit.

Under the condo board’s proposed plan, all dogs in the building would be swabbed for DNA testing to create a database. Dog owners would pay $50 each to cover the costs of tests, and an additional $10 per month for the cost of having building staff pick up wayward piles of poop.

The staff would then send the samples to BioPet Vet Lab, a Tennessee-based company, which would compare the mailed-in samples to those in the dog poop database.

When the company is able to identify the owner of the dog whose poop was not scooped, that owner would pay a $500 fine.

“We pay all this money, and we’re walking around stepping in dog poop,” resident Steven Frans, the board member who proposed the plan, told the Baltimore Sun. “We bring guests over and this is what they’re greeted by.”

The Scarlett Place condo board is expected to make a decision later this week.

I, for one, would not want to live in a complex whose management, or for that matter, a city whose government, is so anal that it  goes around collecting dog poop and sending it in for analysis.

Such a program is underway, on a trial basis, in the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv in Israel, and other jurisdictions in Europe, as well as New York City, have considered it.

As for the Scarlett Place Condominiums, perhaps a cheaper route would be to hire a poop picker upper, adding that service to what its website describes as its ”a plethora of desirable amenities.”

“Entering the lobby, you will be greeted by one of the Front Desk attendants who will take care of your packages, guests, concerns, and deliveries. Attendants are on duty 24 hours a day … A full service, recently remodeled health club is available 24 hours a day and a spectacular indoor pool is at your disposal complete with magnificent walls of glass overlooking The Inner Harbor and Scarlett Place Condominiums courtyard.”  

Meanwhile, if they pursue testing dog poop for DNA, I’m wondering what the more-money-than-they-know-what-to-do-with condo board’s next initiative will be: Establishing a database of their human residents so they can ascertain who’s wiping boogers on the elevator walls?

Dog leads cops to his hidden master

jackrussA German man on the run from police was arrested after his Jack Russell terrier gave away his hiding place, authorities said on Monday.

When police called at the 52-year-old man’s home near Cologne in western Germany on Friday, an acquaintance answered, holding the suspect’s dog.

“The man claimed not to know where the wanted man was. When he put the dog down, it proceeded with a wagging tail to a small cupboard… and stood expectantly in front of it,” police said.

Officers opened the door of the small cupboard and found the man they were seeking ”hunched up inside,” according to AFP.

A police spokesman was not able to say what the man was wanted for, but that it was “not a capital crime.” He declined to give the man’s name,or that of his tell-tale dog.

Scoopen ze poop: Berlin campaign uses humor

A citizens group in Germany is fighting Berlin’s ongoing problem of uncollected dog poop with, of all things, humor.

Instead of pointing fingers at owners who don’t pick up after their dogs, surreptitiously photographing them, engaging in shouting matches and confrontations, or fining them $1,000 (aka the Baltimore way), Sandra Kaliga and her neighbors decided to go for the funny bone.

She and her friends now regularly hit the streets of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district — under the auspices of their organization, Shit Happens – to place tiny flags featuring funny quips atop uncollected piles.

“Only humor is effective,” said Kaliga, a dog owner.

Shit Happens has 15 different flag slogans that they hope will alert innocent pedestrians and remind dog owners to clean up after their pets. “Well formed!” reads one. “100 grammes, just €1.99,” says another.

So far reaction in the neighborhood has been positive, according to an article in “The Local,” an English-language news website in Germany.

“Most people find it funny,” Shit Happens member Sabina Ruminski said. “But we also get some dim-witted commentary, which mostly comes from dog owners who feel like they’ve been caught.” Other dog owners rush to clean up poop when they see the group headed their way, members said.

According to the Berlin Animal Protection Agency, the city is home to more than 107,000 pooches, producing an estimated 30 million pounds of poop a year. Some dog owners in Germany, because they are required to pay a “dog tax” each year, reportedly feel that should absolve them of having to clean up after their pets.

Shit Happens members say they sympathize with Berlin dog owners, who are often forced to carry plastic bags of poop for long distances due to a lack of waste receptacles – a problem the group suggests be solved with dog tax money.

In the meantime, Shit Happens is filling tiny flag orders for communities outside Berlin and is creating new “Danke” flags to hand pet owners they spot doing their part to keep the streets clean.

(Photo from Shit Happens … “Haufen,” I think, means pile, but I don’t know what “Herrchen” means. Maybe some our readers in Germany can help us out.)

Talking terrier a hit in Germany

A two-year-old bull terrier named Armani has become a celebrity in Germany for his ability to say the word “mama,” The UK’s Telegraph reports.

Armani has become the number-one downloaded video in Germany, and the star is now making the rounds on the radio and receiving fan mail, which he responds to with photos personally stamped with a paw print, the newspaper said.