The Swiss and their Dogs

This is a picture of Daphne and her sister, Holly.

They are from two different litters, born a year apart and are quite different in temperament. Daphne is more outgoing and friendly while Holly tends to be more shy and timid.

Owning a dog in Switzerland is not as straight forward as one might think. There are a list of regulations that vary from canton to canton.

As Swiss residents have to obey laws made not just on a cantonal level, but also federal laws, and those made after a referendum, the list of dos and don’ts is long and confusing. They vary from canton to canton so if one moves to a different area, it is important to check the laws in the new canton.

To make sure that dog owners know their responsibilities, all new dog owners are now required to pass a theory test, and a practical test will follow soon.

Last week I did the theory course, in typical Swiss fashion, with wine and nibbles served. The local vet organised the course, thankfully in English as we had to do a small test at the end of the 35 minute lecture.

Basically our responsibilities include getting the dog a medallion – a tax disc – and proving that we have civil liability insurance for our dog. The hound must be chipped and registered with a federal agency and be vaccinated against rabies. Some of the regulations are designed to protect the population, some are protection for the dogs themselves such as the banning of choke chains with spikes or that dogs should not be left alone all day.

Other laws protect the general population and range from keeping dogs on leads in public areas to picking up poo and not allowing your dog to disturb neighbours.

The rules here in Geneva are very strict for dogs termed as ‘Dangerous Breeds’. These dogs, 15 different breeds such as Staffies, Rottweilers, Mastiffs and Pit Bulls, are very highly regulated. They must be sterilised and crossbreeds with these dogs are also illegal. Dogs that are already here are allowed to stay, but must be muzzled when out of doors. These dogs must be taken at least three times a month to training classes until they are 24 months old and yearly thereafter. The owners must do a yearly theory training, instead of the one time training that owners of other dogs are obliged to do.

Basically, the authorities have made it so difficult and expensive to keep a dog termed as ‘dangerous’ in the hope that they will eventually die off in the canton. The vet estimated that keeping a dog from the dangerous dogs list would cost the owner an additional CHF 3,000.00 a year.

Thankfully our Daphne is far from being a dangerous dog so we just have the normal dog regulations to cope with. I shall be heading down to the Marie to pay for the 2010 dog license and pick up her tag in the coming weeks. My only problem is that she should always have her tag on her collar and since she is such a fashionable dog with several different collars, she sometimes does not have it on.

I really hope that the woman in the Marie asks to see the certificate that I received on passing the theory test since I went to all the bother of doing the course.

DS recently had a couple of women come into school and give a talk on safety with dogs.One of the women put a mask and ‘paws’ on and pretended to be a dog and the other woman demonstrated how to behave if a dog were to run towards one (curl up on the ground, face hidden in your arms and pretend to be a rock, girls to hold their hair) and how to treat dogs.