People often hesitate to report a dog attack, because they believe that the dog will be euthanized. This is, however, a myth: it is extremely unlikely, not to mention it takes several lengthy court cases and repeated attacks (including on humans) to get to that point.
In reality, what can happen is: the dog owner has to pay a fine, follow additional regulations (such as using a muzzle on their dog in public), participate in mandatory training classes, or in the worst case scenario lose possession of their dog. When one chooses not to report dangerous behaviour, the irresponsible dog owner is never incentivized to change their ways.
Filing a complaint (Germany):
1. You can register a complaint with the Ordnungsamt (this is more appropriate if no damage was done), which is also possible online.
2. You can register a complaint with the police (and additionally, decide to press charges – Strafanzeige): the case falls under Tierschutzrecht (animal welfare laws). It is also possible to file the report online, however in a serious case, it is better to go to the police station in person as you will then receive advice about how to pursue the case further.
What you need for a police report:
- A form of ID
- If possible, the name and address of the dog owner, but you can still file a complaint without this information!
- Any related receipts from your vet, confirming the type and extent of injury
- If possible, witness statements and contact information.
While I was overseas, Ashra was attacked by an off leash, unmuzzled American Staffordshire Terrier while she was with leashed and with my flatmate just outside our apartment building. This attack happened without prior provocation: the dog came running towards Ashra from afar; the woman had no control over her dog. The owner gave her details to my flatmate to follow up on the vet bills only after he promised that he would not report her to the police. While she reimbursed my flatmate for the initial vet bills after much back and forth, I needed to take Ashra for another check-up which meant another round of bills to be paid.
What I did was report the other two cases (with time and date) where I saw her dog out of control and off-leash with no muzzle, in November 2019 and earlier in the month (February 2020) together with this serious attack. A second report was then filed by my flatmate as a witness, which confirmed the date of the attack. As there were multiple reports, I was given the option to add an additional criminal charge, which I did.
It gets tricky when reporting another dog if your dog was also off leash and especially if it was in an off-leash area for dogs. However, since this was not our case, it is clear who was at fault and thus she will have to cover most of my legal expenses.
After speaking to the police about the case, the best way to pursue the guilty party is through a civil rights (Zivilrecht) lawyer with regards to property damage. The case ended up going to court due to the fact that others had also reported her and my collection of reports was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back". This was due to persistent negligence on the owner's behalf, even after a visit by the Veterinäramt, mandatory training, a character test for the dog, and a home visit to check its living conditions.
On an ending note, please always report a dog attack: the very worst thing that will happen is the dog is taken away from the owner and given up for adoption. However, before that happens, the Veterinäramt will check the standard of care that this person provides, as well as prescribe mandatory training for the dog and owner. At the very least, reporting may save the life of another.