Geneva wants dangerous dogs on a tighter leash

Only dangerous dogs will have to wear a muzzle Keystone

Canton Geneva will introduce stricter controls on the ownership of dogs, after voters on Sunday gave their approval to new legislation.

This content was published on June 18, 2007 - 10:23

It is the first time in Switzerland that the people have voted on a law governing dogs, and follows the killing of a child by pitbull terriers in November 2005.

Although Geneva is a canton of dog lovers – 30,000 dogs live on its territory of less than 250 square kilometres - more than 80 per cent of voters came out in support of the stricter rules.

Under the new law, all dog owners will have to complete an obedience course with their animal. People who walk dogs for other people will require a licence.

But it is owners of dangerous breeds of dog who are particularly affected by the new legislation. They will require a licence and will have to prove that they have completed a dog training course and that the animal comes from an approved breeder.

It will be strictly illegal to breed or cross fighter dogs and just one dog of a dangerous breed will be allowed per household.

Dangerous dogs will have to wear a muzzle in public spaces.

But a recent regulation in canton Geneva that all dogs be muzzled in parks has now been quashed by a verdict of the Swiss Federal Court.

Attacks

The vote in Geneva was prompted by two attacks by pitbull terriers. In the first, in November 2005, a 6-year-old boy was killed in small town near Zurich. Nine months later a child was mauled in a Geneva park.

Several other Swiss cantons have introduced or are planning tougher regulations on some breeds since the attacks.

In the southern canton of Valais, 12 dog breeds have been banned – the severest restrictions in the country.

Canton Fribourg is preparing a ban on dangerous dogs from July and similar measures are under discussion in Bern and Zurich.

Moves are also underway to amend legislation at a nationwide level.

The government plans to tighten liability laws for dog owners, while a parliamentary committee recommends the banning of dangerous dog breeds in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Following the 2005 fatal pitbull attack on a child parliament debated measures to protect the population against dangerous dogs and called on the government to strengthen legislation at the federal level.

The law on the protection of animals made it compulsory from January 1 for all dogs to have a tattoo or microchip.

Swiss legislation on dogs is among the least restrictive in Europe. Certain breeds are totally banned in France and Germany.

Under current Swiss legislation each of the country's 26 cantons is responsible for setting laws to control dog ownership.

Cantonal figures released by the Federal Veterinary Office show that there were around 1,000 dog bites registered in the four-month period from September to December 2006.

Since May 2006 dog bites, and dogs behaving aggressively, have had to be reported to the cantonal authorities.

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