Viennese tortoises under attack/Schildkrötenwinterschlafverordnung

Ingmar Greil’s weblog Aktenvermerk has received some attention recently, but this entry of November 7th has not got the publicity it deserves. Unlike much of what he writes, this sorry tale is not satire.

Viennese tortoises (Landschildkröten) must hibernate from November until the dandelions flower in April, according to experts. If a person prevents this, he or she may be given a penalty under the Vienna Animal Protection Act (Wiener Tierschutzgesetz). The chairwoman of an association had to pay a penalty of 80 euros when she was found to have several (actually the association had 60 tortoises, to say nothing of 90 turtles, but the administrative action related only to 59 tortoises).

The woman appealed to the Austrian Verwaltungsgerichtshof (administrative court), stating that no statute prescribes hibernation. The court held that it is sufficient if expert witnesses and treatises such as the Reptilienatlas give information on keeping animals in their natural environment (artgerechte Pflege). But the court held that wild animals have to be left in their natural environment, and tortoises have to have their hibernation (Winterschlaf) – I’m not quite sure about the turtles.

At all events, their winter temperature should be from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius, not 28, as they were found in, all awake and eating, in a 50 m² room.

This reminds me of a tortoise I had when I was a kid. We put it in a box with a lot of straw in the garage in the winter. In the spring, we opened the box and the tortoise was dead, but a live hedgehog jumped out and ran away. But times have changed since then, or is it just in Austria that people may not keep tortoises, if the court is to be believed?

But another link casts doubt on the legal position of tortoises in Austria. It’s a forum on courts and the justice system and has an unanswered message of 2003:

bq. rusische landschildkröte
ich suche eine mänliche rusische für meine wilma.kann mir jemand helfen.

(Article in Die Presse, German)

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