Some time ago, one of my Russian friends moved to Switzerland. I asked her how she likes it so far, and her response surprised me: “I am constantly worried about getting fined – especially because of my dog.”
Indeed, there are many laws and regulations in Switzerland when it comes to keeping a dog, so I understand that this would be stressful for newcomers. For those of you starting out with a canine friend in Switzerland, here is some practical knowledge from my own experience. After all, living with a dog is supposed to be comfortable and fun…
Each dog needs a Swiss passport.
It comes to no surprise that the passport is top of my list. In Switzerland, a dog ID will come with a photograph, information about the dog’s microchip and a description of the breed. All of your dog’s vaccinations will also be marked there.
Depending on the canton, dogs need to attend school.
Until recently, federal Swiss law required all dogs to undergo obligatory schooling. For puppies, this included four lessons, followed by another 10 when dogs reach adult age. (Large dogs were even required to attend 20 lessons.) From 2017, it is up to the canton of residence, so check with your local commune or police department to find out the rules.
Insurance for dogs is a thing.
The Swiss have a tendency to be over-insured. But when it comes to owning a dog, incident insurance is a requirement. This type of insurance covers incidents, in public, caused by your dog. In addition, providing proof of home incident insurance helps a dog owner rent a new flat.
Medical insurance, on the other hand, is optional. Depending on the breed and state of health of your dog, this might be a good investment. (For instance, purebreds tend to have more varying health problems that occur more frequently.) It can be hard to insure a dog that is older than 7 years old and some insurance plans include treatments by a dog psychologist.
Dogs need to be registered at the local commune.
Whether you’re importing a dog from abroad or you bought it in Switzerland, you need to register your canine at the local Kreisbüro or Gemeinde.
Switzerland has a dog tax which starts at 160 francs per year for small dogs. Also, you will also have to stump up for import tax if you are bringing your pooch across the border.
Avoid fines when taking your dog for a walk.
Be aware that you could be fined for walking your dog without a leash. Some cantons, such as Basel, Lugano or Schwyz, are more strict when it comes to enforcing this law. In any case, fines start at 30 francs and up.
Passing through certain zones, such as playgrounds or kid zones, is prohibited in Switzerland. If you are caught walking your dog there, you could be fined heavily. Finally, there is a fine for those dog owners who do not clean up after their furry friends. To make poochy-poop disposal as easy as possible, there are hundreds of Robidog collection bins all over Switzerland…
Dogs don’t get a free ride on public transportation.
In the eyes of bus and train operators, even small dogs are considered half a human. Therefore, it is necessary to purchase a half fare ticket for your dog or carry your little friend in a special bag for the whole of your journey. Alternatively, pay 805 francs per year for an unlimited dog travel pass valid in all of Switzerland.
In Switzerland, dogs are part of the family.
In Switzerland, it is easier than in many other countries to bring your dog along to restaurants, friends’ houses, or on hiking trips. As long as you know how to manage your dog and you follow (and remember!) all the rules, everything will be fine.
So, love your dog and enjoy the friendship! The rest will be easy (if slightly bureaucratic!).