The parents of a severely disabled boy are asking for support after breed specific legislation threatens to take away their boy's beloved dog. Dylan is 10 years old and has lived in a vegetative state since birth. Dylan's parents, Eckhard and Barbara Gerzmehle, care for him around the clock and machines monitor his vital signs and health. Dylan is also cared for by his faithful friend Tascha, a 6-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Every morning, Tascha goes to Dylan's room and gently pulls his blanket aside. She then tenderly licks his feet and snuggles up to him for a cuddle. Although Dylan cannot speak and cannot physically gesture, his family says that Tascha's love effects him positively. They note that the machines next to Dylan's bed always register a response whenever Tascha is around.
"Whenever the dog is with him, our son responds. He is happy," says Dylan's father Eckhard, 59. "His breathing becomes quieter, his heart rate falls. That could only be because of this dog."
But now the family is facing a terrible crisis. Tascha may no longer be able to stay with Dylan and her family because of her breed. The Gerzmehles live in Schonwalde, located in Brandenburg, a district northeast of Berlin, Germany. The family moved to Schonwalde from Berlin to give Dylan a more peaceful surroundings. His room is beautifully decorated and their home makes it easier to care for Dylan.
Unfortunately, unlike Berlin, Brandenburg has dangerous dog breed legislation that does not permit Staffordshire Terriers. Until recently, the district had not objected to Tascha as she has been neutered, properly reported and has received training from certified dog trainers. She also has passed temperament tests. But due to an unfortunate incident involving the neighbor's dog, the authorities are now enforcing the law.
While the family was outside of their home Tascha got into a fight with the neighbor's dog. According to Erna-Graff-Foundation for Animal Welfare (Erna Graff Stiftung Fur Tierschutz), the Gerzmehles paid for the vet treatment for the injured dog and apologized for what happened. The dog is expected to fully recover from his injuries. However, the Office has made it clear they want to pick up Tascha and take her away. "They were already here several times," Barbara, 49, said.
Now the family is seeking public support and legal assistance to keep Tascha with Dylan. The Erna-Graff-Foundation for Animal Welfare is supporting the family legally. Their Foundation Board of Directors said, "If necessary, we will bring this matter before the Federal Constitutional Court."
Dylan's doctor also has spoken out for Dylan, saying the dog acts as a therapy dog for the critically ill boy and strongly advises against taking Tascha away from Dylan.
"We could really use the support of the authorities," said Eckhard. The family wants to keep Tascha and to keep "every little spark of happiness" they can for their son.
The authorities have not yet responded to media inquiries when contacted on Friday.
Please note: This article was roughly translated from article that appeared in BZ Berlin and The Erna Graff Foundation. Therefore some of the details in my article may not be exactly as reported these German publications. I apologize in advance for any inconsistences. Any assistance from German-speaking community members here on DogHeirs would be greatly appreciated!
Update: December 4, 2013
Tascha will get to stay with her family and continue to care for Dylan! Tascha has won an 11th hour reprieve after authorities in Brandenburg have decided the dog does not have to be relocated or face euthanasia.
Nearly 100,000 people signed a petition demanding that Tascha be exempt from the state's breed specific legislation. After Dylan's parents met with authorities, they learned they told the Local, "We are so happy and thankful, also for the support."
View more articles in: Advocacy and Animal Welfare