Protecting the Law′s Paws | From the Fringe | DW | 25.02.2008
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From the Fringe

Protecting the Law's Paws

Germany is the country which gave the world Birkenstocks, the ultimate in comfort over fashion footwear. So it should surprise no one that the recent decision to shod police dogs was done for practical reasons only.

Police dog wearing the new protective shoes

I'm not sure blue is really my color

Though the city is home to one of Germany's largest fashion trade fairs, the Dusseldorf police department did not make use of its chance to sex up its image with stiletto heels or gain street cred with sleek sneakers.

Instead of being trendsetters in the area of canine footwear, Dusseldorf's police dog unit will get shoes described by a spokesman as "blue plastic fiber" booties.

"I'm not sure they like it, but they'll have to get used to it," said police spokesman Andre Hartwich.

The entire 20-dog unit in the western German city will soon be equipped with the blue monstrosities. Officers have copied similar shoes in use in the United States and come up with a range in light blue fastened with Velcro. The light blue shoes are fastened with Velcro and available in sizes XS to XXL for about 60 euros ($90) for a set of four.

Dog models shoes

Despite being in style-conscience Dusseldorf, the unusual footwear is not a fashion statement, Hartwich said, but rather a necessity brought about by high rates of paw injuries while on duty.

The western German city's historic center is famous for its pubs -- and drunken revelers -- which leave the city littered with broken beer bottles. The dogs often cut themselves as they patrol through downtown.

"Even the street cleaning doesn't manage to remove all the glass pieces from between the streets' cobble stones," Hartwich said.

The dogs -- German and Belgian shepherds -- are currently being trained to walk in the new shoes. With a little luck, come summer, they'll be offered some Birkenstocks.

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