The FSVO and the cantonal veterinary offices operate an agreed and structured system for working together on public veterinary issues. The Swiss Veterinary Service actively promotes the health and welfare of humans and animals.
While responsibility in the Swiss Veterinary Service is spread over several levels, the responsible agencies in the Federal Government and cantons form a joint common organisation under the name of the "Swiss Veterinary Service". The SVS is designed to operate on a professional, transparent and scientific basis.
Nowadays, the quality assurance of food products of animal origin requires an integrated strategy that covers the whole production chain from stable to plate.
Such a strategy is based on an impeccable primary production system in which the modern veterinary service plays its part as the specialist agency for animal welfare and the health of animals and humans.
The role of the cantonal veterinary services
In most cases, federal law delegates responsibility for enforcing national legislation to the cantons. Accordingly, most of the functions of the Swiss Veterinary Service are also replicated in the cantons.
Tasks and functions within the cantonal veterinary service
The tasks of the Swiss Veterinary Service are performed by various specialists. Their basic and advanced education and training requirements are set out in the VET Ordinance (in French). All official information relating to continuing professional development can be found on the Continuing professional development in the veterinary service page (in French).
Cantonal veterinary officers
They manage the cantonal veterinary service. Their tasks include:
- monitoring animal health and animal welfare on cantonal territory
- supervising trade in livestock and meat hygiene in slaughter facilities
- issuing permits for animal testing and keeping wild animals
- conducting investigations as part of national or cantonal disease monitoring programmes
- training the agencies involved in animal disease control
- in certain cantons, managing the animal diseases fund and controlling private veterinary pharmacies
Cantonal veterinary officers can delegate tasks in the veterinary service to the official veterinarian.
They perform all public veterinary tasks. Their broad advanced education and regular in-service training qualify them to perform all enforcement tasks so that they can be assigned to a wide variety of duties in the veterinary service.
All veterinarian meat checkers must possess the same qualifications as official veterinarians.
Senior official veterinarians
This function constitutes a career step in the veterinary service. Senior official veterinarians perform the same functions as official veterinarians, but are also entrusted with managerial tasks.
Official subject matter experts
They undertake tasks in a specialist area that official veterinarians are not obliged to perform by law, e.g. in order to implement animal welfare legislation. They possess a science degree (veterinary medicine, medical profession, biology, zoology or agronomy). They should not be confused with external experts, who can be consulted at any time to help deal with specific technical questions.
Official assistants for the examination of animals for slaughter and meat work under the supervision of an official veterinarian. They correspond to the non-veterinarian meat checkers. To ensure equivalence with EU hygiene legislation, it is mandatory to describe the requirements pertaining to non-veterinarian meat checkers.
Official assistants also work on other public veterinary tasks, predominantly for checks and surveys.
Federation of Swiss Cantonal Veterinary Officers (VSKT)
The cantonal veterinary officers are grouped together in the Federation of Swiss Cantonal Veterinary Officers (VSKT).
The tasks of the federation are as follows:
- To deal with official and professional issues
- To promote continuing professional development
- To promote the consistent enforcement of the relevant legislation relating to animal health, animal welfare and the production of safe food products of animal origin
- To foster collegial relationships among its members and related professional associations
The role of Animal Health Services (AHS)
The Animal Health Services provide indirect support for the Veterinary Service in its enforcement activities. They are private self-help organisations (in French) with broadly the same aims as the Veterinary Service:
- To preserve animal health
- To promote appropriate animal husbandry
- To ensure good-quality food products of animal origin
Performance of veterinary services
Veterinary services are complex organisations with a wide range of legislative, executive, human and material resources. It is therefore important to review and evaluate these resources and their interaction on a regular basis. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) provides a tool for evaluating the performance of veterinary services (PVS Tool). The PVS Tool is designed to assist veterinary services to establish their performance in various areas, to identify where they currently fall short of OIE international standards, to form a shared vision with stakeholders (including the private sector), and to establish sensible priorities and carry out strategic initiatives.
Last modification 03.04.2020
Reto Wyss, Dr. med. vet., Cantonal Veterinary, Bern
Judith Röthlisberger, Dr. med. vet.
Office address:Vereinigung der Schweizer Kantonstierärztinnen und Kantonstierärzte c/o Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Veterinärwesen
A list of addresses for the 22 veterinary offices and the Principality of Liechtenstein can be found under “More information”.