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Cabinet backs down on pitbull ban

Some cantons have already introduced measures to protect people from dog attacks Keystone

The government has withdrawn its recommendation to parliament to ban pitbulls and tighten regulations on other dogs deemed dangerous.

On Friday the cabinet said it did not have a legal basis for enforcing such a ban and that it would now be up to the cantons to introduce appropriate measures.

The authorities proposed the ban in mid-January, a few weeks after a fatal pitbull attack on a six-year-old boy in canton Zurich.

Cabinet minister Joseph Deiss said the government now had misgivings over calls from parliamentary sub committees for Switzerland’s animal rights law to be changed.

Deiss said the law was meant to defend animals rather than to protect people from animals, and therefore did not provide sufficient legal basis for a ban.

Parliament is scheduled to discuss the issue during its current session, which ends in two weeks’ time.


The Federal Veterinary Office had recommended a clampdown on 13 dog breeds, including bull terriers, Rottweilers and Dobermans.

People wanting to keep one of those dogs would have to apply for extension of their licence and be able to prove the origin of the animals.

Pitbulls are not a recognised dog breed and are bred from other types of dogs for their aggressiveness, the office said. The breeding of pitbulls cannot be controlled, which is why the ban was proposed.

Since the attack, several cantons, including Zurich, have tightened legislation.


However, the proposed ban and tighter regulations have been harshly criticised by some Swiss dog experts, who said experiments in other European countries had shown that breed-specific measures did not always produce results.

And veterinary officials in Neuchâtel said only ten per cent of bites registered in the western canton came from the listed breeds, and in only one case was a pitbull the cause.

The Swiss Canine Association called for measures to target dog owners and not their pets.

Several countries including Switzerland’s neighbours, Germany and France, have already taken measures against dangerous dogs, including bans, behavioural tests and compulsory muzzling.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) told swissinfo that measures such as bans can only be effective as part of a broad package with the emphasis on responsible ownership.

swissinfo with agencies

The two Basel cantons, Geneva and Valais have tightened regulations on dog ownership over the past few years.

Following a fatal pitbull attack in December, Zurich introduced compulsory muzzling for dangerous dogs, and that they all be kept on a leash.

Parliament is due to discuss tightening regulations at the federal level during its current session.

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