Puppy love

Life in the Swiss Alps: Puppy love, the Swiss way

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Diana Oehrli ponders Swiss dog laws: a four-hour theory class on the obligations of dog ownership is just the beginning. (But it pays off!)

"Go to the Commune and pay SFr 90 annual dog tax."

This is one of the annoying items on my "to do" list. I find the tax expensive and unfair, especially considering that cat owners get off Scot-free. It reminds me of the US tax on wine but not beer. Americans don't tax beer as much as wine, because beer is, supposedly, a working man's drink. Isn't wine better for you and has anyone talked to a construction worker in Montpellier about this? Don't get me going on this subject...

I feel slightly better paying my dog tax knowing that the Commune actually uses the money to supply us, dog owners, with green "robidog" boxes or dispensers of little plastic bags for picking up after one's pet. So, at least the money isn't wasted on new highways.

This brings me to another topic: dog ownership laws.

Did you know that if you are a dog owner, you are required to have your dog implanted with a microchip and registered with the Animal Identitiy Service (ANIS) database in Bern?

Also, did you know that if you plan on acquiring a dog, you must take a four-hour theory class on the obligations and costs of dog ownership? Topics include rabies, worming, vaccinations and other legal requirements in Switzerland.

No wonder Switzerland is often called the "rule-loving" and the "Nanny State." On this subject, one Daily Mail reader on this dog law had me laughing:  "Sounds like a damned good idea to me - now all we need is something similar for would-be parents, then perhaps in the future, we would read of fewer incidents of child abuse, neglect, delinquency, animal cruelty and violent disorder."

In addition, most cantons require all dog owners regardless of past dog ownership to participate in practical dog training classes.  I think going to these classes is a good idea, because I went to such classes with my Schnauzer-mix Bismarck when he was young, and I would go again. It's money well spent.
Now, Bismarck:

  • comes when I call (unless he's chasing a cat)
  • heels off a leash (better off than on)
  • waits for me (unless same cat is around)
  • is friendly to other dogs (unless he's attacked by a nasty Jack Russel Terrier) 
  • loves people (he's weary of small children who pull his tail)

Switzerland is dog friendly.

When you consider that you can take your dog everywhere with you, Switzerland is dog friendly. For example, dogs are allowed in most restaurants. Most shops provide dog leash tie down hooks, so you can go shopping with your dog. I think this socializes dogs, making them less shy and less bored, than those dogs that are locked up at home all day. And the best part is that you can walk your dog off the leash, as long as you can "voice control" it.

Where my mother lives in the USA, dog owners complain about local ordinances requiring dog owners to keep their dogs on leashes. These ordinances are created by people who are afraid of dogs and who react to horrible incidents involving violently trained pit bulls and other potentially dangerous breeds. Sadly, this is another case of the minority spoiling things for the rest of us.

This brings me to another detail about the Swiss law that includes provisions on the protection of animals. These, I view as self-explanatory, and I can't imagine people NOT doing the following:

  1. Dogs must have sufficient daily contact with human beings and, as far as possible, other dogs.
  2. Those kept in closed premises must be able to take exercise, every day, according to their needs and must, as far as possible, be able to romp in the open air.
  3. Those kept tied up must be able to move around in an area of at least 20 m2 (20 square metres), and must not be attached using a choke chain.
  4. Those kept in the open air must have a shelter and water available.
  5. Anyone looking after a dog must take the measures necessary to prevent the dog endangering either human beings or animals.
  6. Treating dogs with excessive harshness, firing shots to punish them, and using spike collars are prohibited.

Reprinted with permission of Life in the Swiss Alps.

Daughter of a Swiss mountain guide and American photographer, Diana Oehrli grew up in Switzerland, the South of France and in New England. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland and fell in love with mountain life. With her two children, she now lives in a 300-year old farmhouse above the villages of Gstaad and Saanen, where she is working on a novel and on her blog lifeintheswissalps.com.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • jsb posted:

    on 25th April 2012, 15:27:51 - Reply

    Good article for the unitiated but here in Obertoggenburg, even walking down hiking trials past cows with a dog, leashed or not, is a challenge and inadvisable.