Home Living in Switzerland Family & Pets Keeping pets in Switzerland
Last update on September 16, 2020
Written by Diana Oehrli

Four-hour theory classes? Annual taxes? Keeping pets in Switzerland isn’t as simple as just bringing your cat or dog to the country. Here’s everything you need to know.

“Go to the Commune and pay CHF 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 doesn’t go towards new highways.

Dog ownership laws

Did you know that if you are a dog owner, you must implant your dog with a microchip and register them with the Animal Identity 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.

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 a good investment.

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 a dog attacks him)
  • 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 may enter 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.

General dog laws in Switzerland

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. Dogs 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.