ANIMAL CRUELTY IS NOT A HOBBY
Help us stop the violence
UNDERCOVER FOOTAGE REVEALS BRUTAL VIOLENCE DURING DOG TRAINING
Undercover footage from dog sport training fields show dogs being abused, beaten, kicked and strangled. Read the story and help us end the cruelty.
Our new undercover investigation reveals widespread violence during dog trainings in Finland. Videos secretly filmed at dog sport training fields show dogs being abused, beaten, kicked and strangled. Some of the dogs are also wearing electric shock collars and given severe, long-lasting electric shocks.
The trainings were organised by the Finnish German Shepherd Association and its subdivisions. The German Shepherd Association is Finland's largest breed club centered on a single breed. The videos show guard dog enthusiasts training for a dog sport known as Schutzhund or IGP. The dogs are not trained for official duties, but this is merely a hobby.
The videos published by animal rights organisation Oikeutta eläimille were filmed in Paimio and Loviisa, two cities located in the South of Finland.
Most of the videos were taken from a forest edging the training field, so that the trainers were unaware of being filmed. Some videos were shot with a camera left in an enclosed dog training hall.
- This was the only way to get evidence of violence against dogs. Prior to filming, the treatment of the dogs had been reported to the German Shepherd Association and the Supervising Veterinarian. However, the reports had led nowhere. The German Shepherd Association had denied the whole matter and the authorities were unable to intervene without conclusive evidence. Now there is evidence, and the violence must end, says Kristo Muurimaa, the director of campaigns at Oikeutta eläimille.
The videos were first published by a Finnish national broadcasting company YLE on their TV-program A-Studio and also in their extensive internet article about it (the article was published also in Swedish) on 24.2.2021. This started a huge media storm with all national and regional TV stations and newspapers covering the story and showing the videos, which then led to a massive public outcry and people demanding action to stop this violence.
Five days after the videos had been made public and we had collected more than 87 000 signatures to our petition demanding the Finnish Kennel Club Kennelliitto to act, the club suspended all activities related to Schutzhund training and trials for the time being. According to Kennelliitto, activities can only be resumed once the identified shortcomings have been rectified, and all practices comply with the Animal Welfare Act and support animal welfare.
Oikeutta eläimille thanks Kennellitto for its quick and clear response.
HELP US STOP THE CRUELTY
Oikeutta eläimille (Justice for Animals) is an animal rights organisation founded in 1995. Our mission is to reveal animal cruelty and work towards a more animal friendly world. Support our work - donate now!
On the videos there are also two German citizens, who were teaching the IGP training to their Finnish colleagues. The German trainers used very violent methods on the dogs, give them electric shocks and also encouraged the use of violence against the dogs. We have identified many people from the audience, including a police officer, a veterinarian, a lawyer and the head of the Boxer Association and the former head of the Finnish German Shepherd Association. The audience gave the trainers huge round of applause after they finished the training, and people also thanked them afterwards on Facebook for a "wonderful" event. These German trainers are among 15 other people and 3 dog associations that are now investigated for animal cruelty by the police.
The organisation has also asked the police to investigate whether the training methods are in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The Finnish Animal welfare legislation prohibits the violent handling of animals as well as inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on animals. Unreasonable discipline and training and rough handling are also specifically prohibited.
- If punching animals and using shock collars in the context of a dog sport do not constitute unnecessary pain and suffering, then what does, Muurimaa asks.
The extent of the material shows that violent methods are not restricted to a few dog owners. The culture of violent training has spread widely among Schutzhund enthusiasts. The activities have been organised by associations that have known about the tools and methods used. The trainings have been attended by a helper instructor certified by the German Shepherd Association, whose task is to teach other helpers to run Schutzhund trials.
In the videos, the dogs are training for a trial. At the beginning, the dogs are given an electric shock designed to evoke the defense drive through fear and pain. The aim is to get the dog to bite the helper’s protective sleeve, hold it for a moment, and then let go. The dogs are not asked to let go; instead, they are strangled by pulling on their leashes for so long that they are forced to let go. The dogs are also punished for letting go too fast, which means they have no chance to avoid violence.
According to Oikeutta eläimille, the treatment of dogs indicates a deeper problem that must now be taken seriously.
- If we treat “human’s best friend” this way, then what does it say about our relationship with other animals, Muurimaa asks.
According to Oikeutta eläimille, the Finnish Animal Welfare Act needs an urgent reform. The starting point should be animal welfare rather than the benefits gained from the use of animals.
According to the organisation, physical and mental coercion, subjugation as well as the use of violence against animals should be clearly prohibited. Similarly, any tools that are used to coerce or subjugate an animal or that are used to inflict violence against an animal should be prohibited.