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Politicians collar dangerous dogs and their owners

Dogs' days of freedom in Switzerland may be numbered

(Keystone)

Parliament is pushing for nationwide legislation to prevent serious dog attacks on humans.

It puts pressure on the cabinet to reverse an earlier decision to leave regulations up to the country's cantonal authorities.

The House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously approved a proposal which calls for dog owners to take out a mandatory liability insurance and to go on canine training courses.

The Senate had voted in favour of the motion earlier this year.

"We can't continue as if nothing had happened," said Senator Peter Bieri, referring to the death of a boy last year who was killed by three pit bulls in a suburb of Zurich, triggering a public debate about dangerous dogs.

During the summer session parliament also endorsed a call on the government to ban certain dog breeds. The move came after the cabinet in April stopped short of introducing a nationwide ban on dangerous dogs. Many vets had maintained all dogs were potentially dangerous.

Bieri said the government's stance to leave it up to the 26 cantons to legislate on the issue was probably correct from a strictly legal point of view but was unrealistic.

In response Economics Minister Doris Leuthard, who is responsible for preparing legislation on the matter, said the government agreed it was necessary to boost measures against dangerous dogs.

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (also referred to as the National Council) is one of two parliamentary chambers. Its 200 members are elected directly ...

Campaign

A mass-circulation newspaper led a campaign at the beginning of the year to outlaw certain dog breeds.

The economics ministry called for a special record on dangerous dogs and breeding methods and other preventive measures to deal with aggressive dogs.

But the cabinet rejected all but a few of the proposals, including a strengthening of the civil responsibility of dog owners and an obligation to report injuries caused by dangerous dogs to the cantons.

The government decision prompted a positive reaction among vets, the Swiss Canine Society and animal protection groups.

But politicians said they would pursue the issue in parliament.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

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

Parliament called on the government to strengthen federal legislation, but the cabinet ruled against it in April.

Dangerous dogs came under the spotlight after the death of a young boy bitten by pit bulls last December in a suburb of Zurich.

The Zurich tabloid Blick, which launched a petition to ban pit bulls, collected more than 175,000 signatures.

Some cantons decided themselves to tighten their dog laws.

At the federal level, the law on the protection of animals is making it compulsory from next year for all dogs to have a tattoo or microchip.

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Key facts

According to a Federal Veterinary Office report in 2002, about 13,000 people are bitten by dogs annually in Switzerland.
In 24% of cases, the victim is bitten by his own dog, in 34% the dog is known to the person bitten, and in 42% of incidents the dog is unknown to the victim.
There are two known cases of fatal dog attacks around Zurich since 2000. In August a child was also badly injured in an incident in Geneva.

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