For killing bird, court says man owes $19,500

Published February 7, 2007

BERLIN - A German appellate court in Stuttgart proposed a $19,500 fine Tuesday against a 70-year-old man who fatally beat an escaped golden eagle with his walking stick after it attacked his dachshund.

The court agreed with a lower court's decision that a wildlife center that let the eagle escape was partly responsible, but it attributed even more blame to the man, more than doubling his penalty.

According to the court's proposed settlement, the wildlife center would pay $662 for the dog's veterinary expenses. The court will hand down a decision Feb. 23, should the parties not agree to the proposed settlement.

The man was walking with his wife and leashed dog in the town of Siegelsbach in southeast Germany in October 2005 when a passer-by told him the eagle - recently escaped from the center - was nearby. The man then approached the eagle.

When the eagle attacked the dachshund, the man hit it with his walking stick two to three times, he told the appellate court. The blows broke a wing and several bones of the bird, which died a few days later.

"The eagle pounced on my dog," he said. "I had to rescue it."

The lower court had found the man bore the bulk of the responsibility because he had been warned not to approach the bird and should have known that an eagle might regard a small dog as prey.

The 19-year-old male bird was to play a prominent role in the wildlife center's proposed breeding program for the endangered species. The court estimated the bird's value at $30,000.