The Swiss Animal Welfare Act protects the welfare and dignity of animals. Serious infringements of its provisions may lead to a ban on keeping animals, breeding animals, handling animals commercially, or trading in animals.
Livestock holdings are inspected periodically to check that they comply with animal welfare regulations. For example, animal houses must be illuminated by daylight, and animals must not be kept permanently tethered. Further information can be found under Keeping of livestock.
Mass-produced housing systems and equipment for cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, as well as for domestic rabbits and poultry, may only be provided and sold if they are approved by the FSVO.
Social animal species must not be kept individually. Aviaries, aquariums, terraria and other enclosures for pets and wild animals must meet the minimum requirements of the Animal Protection Ordinance. Due to their special demands in terms of feeding and housing, the keeping of certain exotic pets requires training and a cantonal licence.
The requirement to undergo training and obtain a licence applies to animal shelters and pet breeding facilities once they reach a certain size, and to all commercial establishments keeping wild animals. This includes not only zoos but also, for example, the agricultural use of deer and other wild animals. Further information can be found under Keeping of pets and wild animals.
Under the Animal Protection Ordinance, training is required for certain animal husbandry units and in particular for the commercial handling of animals. The compulsory training provides knowledge and practical skills which are necessary for the proper housing and careful handling of an animal. Training must be recognised by the FSVO. Further information can be found under Training (in French).
Any person who sells pets and wild animals commercially must provide written information about the needs, appropriate care and proper housing of the species concerned, as well as about relevant legislation.
Pet shops, livestock traders, animal brokers, animal exchanges, small animal markets and animal exhibitions in which animals are traded, and persons using live animals in advertising, require appropriate training and a cantonal licence for commercial trade in animals. Further information can be found under Transport and trade (in French).
Breeding requires a great deal of knowledge, especially about breeding conditions, special feeding requirements of pregnant dams and growing young animals, hereditary diseases and the effects of hereditary characteristics. Under the Animal Welfare Act, breeding objectives must not entail any pain, harm or disrespect of animal dignity for the offspring or parent animals, such as occurs in over-typing. Animals of breeding varieties with a clinical pathological phenotype must undergo a strain assessment because animals with a significant clinical pathological phenotype may not be used for breeding or exhibited. Certain breeding varieties are prohibited. Further information can be found under Animal welfare in breeding.
Methods of killing must immediately produce insensibility and unconsciousness and lead to certain death. The killing process must be monitored until death occurs. An essential prerequisite for pain-free euthanasia is that it is conducted by a professional and experienced person familiar with the method and the animal species concerned. In slaughterhouses, staff must undergo continuous further training and stunning procedures must be authorised. Bleeding must be done on the unconscious animal. Further information can be found under Regulations on slaughterhouses (in French) and in the technical information under the individual species.
When handling an animal, strains such as pain, suffering, harm and major interference with the appearance or abilities are permissible under the Animal Welfare Act only if they are justified by overriding interests. For more on this challenging topic, see “Dignity of the animal”.
Animal experiments must be carried out according to 3R principles. The cantonal authority may approve animal experiments causing strain only if the weighing of interests shows that the experiment is permissible. Experimental animals, especially dogs, cats and rabbits, must come from a licensed experimental animal breeding facility.
The FSVO is responsible for overall supervision of animal experiments and may bring a legal challenge against a cantonal licence if a project involving experiments does not fully comply with animal welfare regulations. More information can be found under Animal experiments.
The transport regulations are mainly aimed at livestock. However, they also apply in principle to all animal species, including, for example, dogs. Animals must be transported carefully. This applies both to the driving conditions and to the loading and unloading of the animals. They must have sufficient space inside the means of transport to be able to adopt a natural posture. Special attention must be paid to the climatic conditions during transport to prevent animals from - in the extremes - freezing or dying due to severe heat exposure.
Personnel transporting animals commercially are required to undergo initial training and regular further training. Further information can be found under Transport of animals (in French).
The Act applies apart from a few exceptions for vertebrates. A basic principle of the Act is that no person may improperly subject an animal to pain, suffering, harm or fear, or otherwise violate its dignity. With some exceptions, painful procedures must be carried out under anaesthesia. The Act states that, when dealing with an animal, its dignity, i.e. its inherent worth, must be respected. Any strains to which an animal is exposed through its use must be justified by overriding interests as part of a weighing of interests. In many cases, the result of such a weighing of interests is already stipulated in the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance as an explicitly prohibited procedure or as a requirement. However, all applications to conduct animal experiments must undergo a weighing of interests.
The Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance contains the minimum requirements for the keeping and use of animals. Among other provisions, it stipulates the minimum dimensions and equipment for enclosures, enrichment options and social contacts, outdoor runs and animal house climate. Further animal welfare provisions are outlined in the following sections.
Last modification 28.05.2020