Europe

Family pug seized by town over unpaid debts and sold on eBay

A black-coloured pug looks into the camera with its tongue sticking out in this file photo Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption File photo: Black pugs are an in-demand pet - enough to make them worth seizing in one German town

A town in Germany has made headlines for seizing a family's dog over unpaid taxes - and then selling it on eBay.

German media report that officials in Ahlen initially wanted to seize the wheelchair of a disabled resident as the most valuable item on the premises.

Instead, they settled on a pedigree pug bitch named Edda.

One of the officials then listed the dog on eBay at an apparent bargain price of €750 - half of what its new owner expected to pay.

But the case – first reported in local newspaper Ahlener Tageblatt – was not yet over.

Edda's new owner was Michaela Jordan, a police officer, who told the newspaper she was initially suspicious of the low price.

Upon calling the number listed in the advert, she spoke to an employee of Ahlen's administration, who explained that the dog had been seized because the owner owed the city money - including for unpaid dog tax.

The pug was healthy, she was told, and so Ms Jordan agreed to the sale.

Now, she says that Edda had medical problems that were not disclosed. Since changing owners in December, she has needed four operations due to eye problems, including an emergency operation over Christmas.

Ms Jordan is seeking recompense for the expense - totalling about €1,800. Her demands from the town brought the case to the attention of the Ahlener Tageblatt – which also managed to track down Edda's original owner.

"How it all ended, that was absolutely not okay," the former owner said, though she accepts that the seizure was legal.

She told the newspaper that a court bailiff and two city officials arrived at her home in November to search for valuables to repay the debts owed to the city.

At first, media reports said, they considered seizing the wheelchair belonging to her disabled husband. But it was not their property, belonging instead to an employee insurance association.

That assertion is fiercely contested by the city, with spokesman Frank Merschhaus calling it "a wicked rumour".

"Aids to guarantee the mobility of people with disabilities are absolutely exempt from being seized as collateral - unlike pets," he said. "No enforcement officer would come up with the idea."

In either case it turned out that Edda was the most valuable possession in the home.

"I know now that Edda is in good hands," the former owner said, but added her three children miss the dog.

The story has since been covered by dozens of news outlets across Germany.

Mr Merschhaus said the seizure of the dog was legal, "in so far as it is a valuable pet".

Nonetheless, the incident will be fully investigated, he said - stressing both that a pet seizure had never happened before, and the "emotionally challenging" nature of financial enforcement work.

The use of a private eBay account for selling a living creature would also be looked at, he said.

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