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Animal Welfare Issue - Apologies it's long.

Freedom of information request

thelocalnumpty
post 9.Dec.2016, 07:14 AM
Post #1
Joined: 9.Dec.2016

Hi Guys,
First time lurker and first time poster so please be gentle.
We've only been in Sweden since August but already have run into an issue. We are here to housesit three dogs and some other animals. We brought our young Spring Spaniel with us from England too.

I walk our generally obedient dog up a public road/track past maybe 7 houses twice a day.
Only one of the houses have people in them, an elderly Swedish couple.

I had been walking past this house for about 3 weeks with no issue, until one day the old man shouted at and kicked our dog in the face for being nosey peeking through an open door to a barn they own by the road. Unfortunately this turned infected and cost us 2000SEK in vets bills. A week later the old lady came out, I assumed to say hello. Well what we received was a Swedish rant about something, which took ages to decipher down to something about her cats. It seemed she assumed our dog would chase/kill her cats as she told us to keep our dog away from them, I think. Our Springer Spaniel, who is very excitable and young but certainly not aggressive nor dangerous.

So we resolved to keep our dog on a lead past their house in future or walk the dog elsewhere if it was still light out, I don't like walking the dog in the dark forest at night, I'm a bit of a wimp.

The other dogs we look after are are rescue dogs, two of which are Leonbergers, big hairy dogs.
Unbeknown to me one allegedly escaped from the extensive bordered garden, typically the one with a previously damaged foot, (how the hell it jumped the fence I have no idea) it allegedly got down to this elderly couples house and allegedly ran riot chasing their cat and running around their house. This to us and the owners of the dogs is impossible (or extremely unlikely) as this particular dog is old cannot run very far and actually is very friendly.

Nevertheless the elderly couple, along with a young lady, brought him back to the house after they bundled him into their 4x4 whimpering all the way. He looked exhausted poor little bugger. They proceeded to have a go at me for about 40 minutes telling his previous injuries were my fault, that his escape was all my fault, that I was mistreating the dog as he looked dishevelled and had a few dreadlocks in his hair, the abuse from them was never ending.
I apologised more than once and eventually got the dog back.

Ever since then the old lady or the man stare at me walking past their house and sometimes shout something in Swedish, whatever it is it does not sound complimentary.

So 2 weeks later, the Animal Welfare dept shows up on our doorstep saying there had been a complaint that we were mistreating the animals we are looking after. They looked at two of the dogs and left after twenty minutes. They took a picture of one of the dogs feet.

I asked the Animal Welfare dept for information and justification for their visit and asked who it was who had complained. They ignored that. I requested loads of info and proof that we had done any thing wrong. They ignored that too.
I wrote over a 4 week period about 7 emails to the animal welfare dept, all of which were ignored. I also asked for it to be translated or given to us in English. This was ignored too.
I then received an official looking letter on 6 sheets of paper. One sheet only a summary in English, everything else in Swedish, including what looked like an invoice for their time for 1600SEK. WTF??
I disputed the letter stating it was unfair plus pointing my previous requests and pointing out the discrepancies in the English summary.

I received a reply stating the letter was a "demand" for payment and action and if I did not comply with the "demand" they would seek an injunction against me. Even though the statements in the English summary are false and their so called evidence is without merit. There is also no word demand in the English summary.
Since the Animal Welfare showed up I have been trying to get the owners to agree to a Vets appointment for the dogs just to prove that the dogs (although previously injured) are fine. Though making the appointment with the vets has been difficult as no one there speaks sufficient English in the reception dept (if they actually answer emails or the phone calls I've made) to give us an estimate of cost and a booking time.

Is there such a thing a Freedom of Information requests in Sweden?
Are the Government depts supposed to provide you with English information if you cannot speak Swedish?
Are you allowed to disagree with a Government official if you think their argument is wrong?
Are you allowed to request information from a Government official especially if they are not qualified as a vet to make a summary judgement in a veterinary capacity?

In the UK, you can write to any Government official and make a Freedom of Information request.
There must be something here too right?
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elliha
post 10.Dec.2016, 05:53 PM
Post #2
Joined: 13.Oct.2014

Is there such a thing a Freedom of Information requests in Sweden?

Yes, you can ask for information according to offentlighetsprincipen.
Are the Government depts supposed to provide you with English information if you cannot speak Swedish?

Not sure but probably not, it is not a minority language.

Are you allowed to disagree with a Government official if you think their argument is wrong?

Yes but have you actually read all the information you have gotten from Länsstyrelsen? You should have any information there on how to appeal. I think they can take the issue to court and there you have the chance to prove them wrong.

Are you allowed to request information from a Government official especially if they are not qualified as a vet to make a summary judgement in a veterinary capacity?

They are not vets but they are informed about the laws and make judgments based on that. I am pretty sure they can also order a dog owner to take the dog to a vet if there is any question about an injury.

There is something fishy here. Have you read everything they sent? Have you had anyone what all the papers say in Swedish as well, I get a feeling that most of the information you need will be in these documents. What have they asked you to do with regards to the dogs? I assume that they have asked you to take the dog to a vet then will come for a follow up where you prove the dogs have been seen by a vet and is receiving any necessary treatment as this is what usually happens if they don't think you are actively tormenting the animals.

Also about the money you are expected to pay: If they find an allegation to be founded you have to pay for the visit as well as the follow up. As the dog did have an injury they have probably found the caller to be truthful and just in calling even if they don't want to take you to court for abuse but instead want you to see a vet. If they had found your dogs without injuries and they felt the caller was malicious you would not need to pay.
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Bsmith
post 10.Dec.2016, 11:04 PM
Post #3
Joined: 25.Jun.2009

First, I must say that if someone kicked my dog in the face...I am not certain I would be able to contain myself. What an a-hole.

I can't speak to the legal issues. You may have to hire an lawyer and it may well cost you more than the initial bill. Your call.

In the meantime, strengthen your fence and keep your boys on a leash, as your neighbors sound nasty and out to get you.

I have two, large dogs and one day they decided to do a little exploring and went over to my elderly neighbor and scared him. He got out his rifle and was going to shoot them. Needless to say, and at a great cost, I erected a good, strong fence. Good fences make for good neighbors, they say.

Good luck.
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LLHope
post 11.Dec.2016, 06:25 PM
Post #4
Location: Stockholm
Joined: 1.Jan.2014

QUOTE (thelocalnumpty @ 9.Dec.2016, 07:14 AM) *
Is there such a thing a Freedom of Information requests in Sweden? Are the Government depts supposed to provide you with English information if you cannot speak Swedish? Are y ... (show full quote)


- Everything sent in to a public authority is public! There are some exceptions to that, but not that many. Your emails can in theory be made available to anyone under the right to information.

- English is not an official language in Sweden.

- In your case the path to appeal will be Court, expensive since they will have lawyers and a full legal team behind them, and you are not entitled to legal aid so will have to either fight the case yourself or pay for a lawyer.

- You claim the Government official was not a Vet. Did you know that the authority you are talking about is normally staffed by 2 roles. 1 role is a preliminary investigator who will make general observations etc... and the 2nd role is actually a qualified Vet. Unless you know for sure that the people who visited you were not qualified (they have to be for the role) then don't just assume they are just pen-pushers.

- You can make a request for almost anything to the public authority. You could even ask specifically for the CVs of the people who visited you to check they were experienced and qualified. You'd be surprised just what you can request and they are obliged by law to send.

OP, from what you write, I would say that the 6 pages you received was certainly NOT a charge for their visit, but an actual decision (the pages will contain each section of law they are basing the decision upon) in your case. The amount you have to pay is more likely a fine, not a charge, for not caring correctly for the dog(s). When an authority makes a decision it is only a valid decision if they quote the laws they have used as a basis for that decision (hence the number of pages in Swedish, since law in Sweden is in Swedish!). You should also pay very close attention to the fact that they have told you to take actions. Failure to do what they want can result in the authority taking the next step which is to seize the dog(s) and a probable BAN from having dog(s) from then onwards.
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elliha
post 11.Dec.2016, 09:23 PM
Post #5
Joined: 13.Oct.2014

No, I am afraid that you are wrong that this is most likely a fine.

http://www.lansstyrelsen.se/jamtland/SiteC...ar-det-webb.pdf

In there you can see that they charge money for a visit, 800 kr per hour. Only if there are huge problems further fines might be added or if the problems are not fixed. Make sure to get everything translated into Swedish so you know for sure what they want you to do and fix it.
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thelocalnumpty
post 12.Dec.2016, 09:37 AM
Post #6
Joined: 9.Dec.2016

Hi all,

Many thanks for your reply.

The day after the two people from the lansstyrelsen visited. I wrote a detailed report of what happened, what time they showed up, who they spoke to and more importantly what they said.

In this email/letter I also asked loads of questions. Who they were, their qualifications, potential cost, had they ever seen a rescue dog before and if so what was their previous recommendation. I also requested copies or links to their jurisdiction, the regulations, what their determination was, who was it who complained and what their argument was.
I also asked who would be liable and made a complaint about the guy who kicked our dog.

I also asked for all of this info to be supplied in English and German. 1/ because we are English and 2/ German, because the owners of the house and dogs we are sitting are German.

This email/letter was 90% ignored. I was sent a brief email reply from the inspector showing the Lansstyrelsen website and their mission statement. The English side is very very brief. The Swedish side is super comprehensive. Google Translate kind of manages to do a good job but there is a lot lost in translation. The mission statement of the Lansstyrelsen is that dogs are supposed to lead as natural life as possible. If this is true, then keeping dogs in cages is not natural so every Swede who have dogs in cages should be guilty of an offence. But sadly Hunting dogs are largely exempt from regulations. Thankfully a Leonberger is a hunting dog so technically there is no argument possible from the Lansstyrelsen but I digress.

I wrote another letter requesting further clarification of their website, the conflicts of statements within it and reiterated my previous statement and requests. This also went ignored.

As I am not the owner of the animals I copied in all correspondence to the owners and referred the Lansstyrelsen directly to them as they were the ones who are having to pay for this issue.
They gave the Lansstyrelsen the videos of the Dogs when they got them from the shelter as young pups, which clearly showed their previous injuries which have not got any worse.
They ignored this too and stated they felt the dogs were "maybe" in pain, but might not be.
A huge difference to the first statement form them which was "they were clearly in pain".

We tend to the animals in accordance to the dogs and owners wishes.
One of the Leonbergers hates having her coat brushed and tries to bite the brush or us if we try to groom her or runs away, many treats and attempts to exhaustion later we have not got anywhere. The other Leonberger (the one with the previous injury and who escaped) loves being brushed but immediately goes outside, digs a big hole and lies in it upside down. We have documented everything from day 1 in a blog for the owners and have video and picture evidence of grooming (or attempted grooming) including the dogs previous injuries etc.

I wrote many emails to the Lansstyrelsen but non have been answered, until the last one when I attached an invoice for our time. I immediately got an email from them denying the bill and stating that the English summary contained a demand.
It does not. It is only an incorrect summary of what the Lansstyrelsen did and said when they came to the house. They made bold claims about how long they were there and what they did, and sadly have made up what I or they said. I audio recorded the conversation via my phone so have evidence about what was said so know that most of what they wrote is made up. This is why I wrote my report and sent it the next day.
Very upset about that. I have also made a complaint about that too.

I did eventually get to speak to a lovely Swedish vet who said that Swedes tend to just put dogs down rather than rescue them with injuries so the Lansstyrelsen have no experience with injured animals unless the owners actively injure the dogs themselves. He also said that he can't stand the way Swedes complain about issues just to annoy other neighbours. He is so annoyed that this goes on. Which is exactly what has happened. The German owners have had issues with their neighbours before we arrived and me walking our dog past the elderly couples house just rekindled their dislike for the owners and their animals and now us.

The thing that annoys me the most is the officer who came out is certainly not a vet, though she made the statement that the "dogs were clearly in pain", she is clearly not qualified to make that statement. They also said that the dog who likes to dig holes seriously needed grooming. Though we pointed out that we groom the dog , he goes out and digs holes to lie in and asked if they like to see the video footage, they ignored and never asked for evidence.

I come from the opinion that we are innocent until proven guilty and that the burden of proof is on the accusers. We have supposedly been accused of not looking after these dogs but yet have not provided any proof of this other than non veterinary assumptions. Plus they did not inspect the animals when they were there. So from my point of view there is no case for them to have. Very happy to take this one to court if need be.
I'm more than willing to take the dogs to the vets if the owners wish it or if I thought there was an issue with the dogs in our care which differed from when we first saw them, or was in any way detrimental to their health, not withstanding their previous injuries. They seem fine.
As the vet put it, if they are eating, pooing and weeing and seem happy, whats the problem.

The vet is willing to see the dogs and we have provisionally booked an appointment but not because the Lansstyrelsen said so. But I am waiting for the evidence and infomration from the Lansstyrelsen I have requested and given them 7 days to provide it, even though they have had 4 weeks already.

I have disputed the invoice and statements of the Lansstyrelsen as the English summary is only advice.
We have also had a Swedish friend look at the Swedish paperwork and she said that there are many conflicts in the paperwork, she said that although the words in theri alleged report are "we recommend" or "advice" there is no word demand or specific requests. Though the very next sentences are "we can prosecute you if you don't comply."
She said that how it was written does not make any sense and she's Swedish!

So if a Swede can't make head nor tail of the info sent , how can we?

I have also made a formal complaint regarding the info the Lansstyrelsen sent as to me it is without faoundation, plus it is discriminatory that they have not provided the information I requested in a language we can understand as I have found out is our European Human Right as an immigrant without a Swedish number.

So we will wait and see if they ever provide me the info we have requested in English and German and if they wish to take this issue further. Or even if I get a chance to have my complaint heard.

As for the guy who kicked our dog we have not had any further comment from the Lansstyrelsen about this either.

We could easily claim prejudice at this point though I am willing to follow any demand if it is based on actual legal evidence and paperwork I can understand.

I would be the same in the UK so it's not that I am trying to be difficult in Sweden I have a healthy distrust for any Government dept, who feels they run roughshod over anyones rights.
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thelocalnumpty
post 12.Dec.2016, 02:54 PM
Post #7
Joined: 9.Dec.2016

Just came back from the vets.

They have said that the dogs are fine and I have not mistreated the dogs and they are healthy and happy.

He is going to be sending off his report to the Lansstyrelsen and says that should be the end of their complaint.

My complaint still stands with the Lansstyrelsen and am quite happy to pursue my complaint through the Ombudsmen as I feel they way they have handled this has been very unfair.

Also I have no intention of paying their bill. Maybe I should forward this on to the guy who made the complaint and who also kicked our dog?
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LLHope
post 14.Dec.2016, 10:43 PM
Post #8
Location: Stockholm
Joined: 1.Jan.2014

QUOTE (thelocalnumpty @ 12.Dec.2016, 09:37 AM) *
plus it is discriminatory that they have not provided the information I requested in a language we can understand as I have found out is our European Human Right as an immigra ... (show full quote)
No it isn't! And I for one would certainly not want such a right to exist, I do not want to pay the taxes required to provide information in each 1 of the 6500+ languages that exist on this planet blink.gif

European Human Rights recognises this, and limits the language right to arrest, charge and trial. And within the EU itself the only Directive is with regards protection and recognition of minority languages in a Member State when it comes to providing official documents (and those languages are not decided by you but the Member State itself). In Sweden, English and German are not official languages. In Sweden in general, even for citizens, ignorance is no excuse, you are expected to know the law. (ok, some allowance tends to be given to certain people from MENA countries and sex-crimes/violence against women)
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Bsmith
post 14.Dec.2016, 11:20 PM
Post #9
Joined: 25.Jun.2009

Government's life blood is money. Money from taxes, licenses, fees, etc. Someone has to pay for all this government.
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Gamla Hälsingebock
post 15.Dec.2016, 01:43 AM
Post #10
Joined: 21.Dec.2006

Why not charge migrants an entrance fee???
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rouet
post 15.Dec.2016, 06:04 PM
Post #11
Location: Jämtland
Joined: 16.Jul.2015

One of my neighbours complains anonymously every year about how I care for my animals (This is in Jämtland) Länstyrelsen come out, check everything VERY thoroughly, find nothing wrong, and apologize for inconvenience. They have told me that if the complaints were grounded I would get a bill for their time.
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Bsmith
post 15.Dec.2016, 06:09 PM
Post #12
Joined: 25.Jun.2009

You must have pissed off a neighbor.
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rouet
post 15.Dec.2016, 10:11 PM
Post #13
Location: Jämtland
Joined: 16.Jul.2015

It is not very pleasant. As there are only 10 people in the village, we have a pretty good idea who it is. unbelievable as I am not the type of person who pisses anyone off
blink.gif The vet isn't too pleased about it either as it is a long drive. This time it was so ridiculous as another department had been out the week before looking at the plant diversity and were so thrilled at the work my animals were doing.
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Bsmith
post 15.Dec.2016, 10:57 PM
Post #14
Joined: 25.Jun.2009

Ten people in the whole village and one of them is an a-hole. What are the odds.

Oooo, oooo (raises hand) ten percent!
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Fluffer
post 16.Dec.2016, 07:37 AM
Post #15
Joined: 17.Oct.2016

They should start billing the neighbour then!
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