A new rule forcing Germans to take their dog for a walk twice a day has unleashed1 a debate on whether the state can decide what is best for the country's 9.4 million pet canines2.
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 one hour twice a day.
"Pets are not cuddly3 toys - their needs have to be considered," said Kloeckner, adding pets must get sufficient exercise and not be left alone for too long.
With almost one in five German homes owning a hound, the new "Animal Welfare Dog Regulation", which also sets limits on the transportation of farm animals in hot weather, affects a significant proportion of the population.
"Compulsory4 Walkies for Dog Owners? Rubbish!" wrote the top-selling Bild newspaper in an opinion piece on the new decree.
A spokesman for the VDH German Dog Association said most owners were laughing at the new rule because they already spent enough time walking their four-legged friend.
"One rule for all dogs is probably well meant but unrealistic," said VDH spokesman Udo Kopernik.
Dog trainer Anja Striegel said the amount of exercise a dog needs depended on the health, age and breed of dog.
"For a young, fit Labrador, two hours of walkies are healthier than for an arthritic5 pug with heart problems," she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.