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Parliament calls for curbs on dangerous dogs

Most people consider pitbulls to be dangerous dogs Keystone

Switzerland's two houses of parliament have voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to tighten rules on dogs deemed to be dangerous.

This content was published on March 16, 2006 - 19:30

The cabinet decided last week to withdraw a recommendation to ban pitbulls and enforce other measures but it will now have to review its position.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday, and the Senate on Thursday backed a motion demanding national rules for dangerous dogs.

The government's decision not to pursue the issue further on Friday last week meant that it would have been left to the 26 cantons to come up with their own legislation.

A strong majority of parliamentarians felt though that individual solutions for each canton would not be satisfactory.

Both advocates and opponents of the motion have said that cabinet has to take its responsibility and guarantee the same rules throughout the country.

"If the government doesn't act, it will be showing both casualness and a lack of decisiveness on this issue," said the centre-right Christian Democrat senator Madeleine Amgwerd.

Under pressure

The government has been under pressure to crack down on dangerous dogs after a fatal attack in December by three dogs on a six-year-old boy in canton Zurich.

The tabloid Blick later handed over a petition demanding a ban on pitbulls with over 150,000 signatures

The authorities proposed outlawing this breed of dog in mid-January.

But cabinet minister Joseph Deiss said last Friday that the government had misgivings over calls for Switzerland's animal rights law to be changed.

Deiss added 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.

The minister said though on Thursday that the government would now have to consider enforcing a variety of measures nationwide, including possibly banning some breeds. Another measure might be to announce every dog attack, as is done in Basel.

Clampdown

The Federal Veterinary Office had also recommended in January 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.

But the breeding of pitbulls, which a not a recognised breed, cannot be controlled, so a ban was proposed.

The debate, in and outside parliament, has centred mainly on whether a ban on dog breeds is opportune.

Some politicians have called more emphasis on the responsibility of dog owners.

Senators including Maximilian Reimann of the rightwing People's Party said on Thursday that the onus for security should be on owners. Helen Leumann of the centre-right Radicals agreed, adding that if ownership-related issues were not tackled, there would be further problems no matter what breed was involved.

Switzerland's veterinarians and dog owners' associations are much of the same opinion. "It's individual dogs or owners who must be sanctioned," said Charles Troillet of the Swiss Veterinarians' Association, which opposes a ban on some breeds.

According to Troillet, the animal-rights law should be sufficient to ensure that owners educate and socialise their dogs.

He admits though that given a lack of funding, the authorities may be forced to consider the most efficient measures at their disposal, such as identifying potentially dangerous animals.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

December 12, 2005: three pitbulls kill a child in Oberglatt near Zurich. The government asks the Federal Veterinary Office to consider ways of reinforcing existing legislation.

December 9, 2005: Zurich demands owners of dangerous dogs muzzle and leash their animals.

December 13, 2005: a Senate committee calls on the government to ban dangerous dogs.

December 22, 2005: the Blick hands over a petition with 157,000 signatures demanding a ban on pitbulls.

January 13, 2006: the Veterinary Office proposes banning some dog breeds.

March 10,2006: the Cabinet reckons the law on animal protection is not a sufficient legal basis for a ban and says it does not want to take over from the cantons.

March 15-16, 2006: Parliament approves a motion calling for national measures against dangerous dogs.

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