The Swiss Animal Welfare Act (AniWA) and Animal Protection Ordinance (AniPO) regulate the keeping and breeding of pets and wild animals, as well as the training requirements for their owners and keepers. They also specify prohibited actions in relation to animals.
Pets are animals which are kept in the household out of interest in the animal or as companions: they include dogs, cats, ferrets, rodents, rabbits and many other species.
Ornamental birds and fish, snakes, turtles and parrots are also included, as are birds of prey, pigeons and quails. However, it should not be forgotten that these creatures are wild animals, even if they are kept in captivity.
Fisheries and hunting fall primarily within the responsibility of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).
According to the Animal Welfare Act, no person may improperly subject an animal to pain, suffering, harm or fear, or otherwise violate its dignity. The characteristics of each species should be respected by enabling animals to live a life that is as species-appropriate as possible. Animals should not be humanised or remodelled by breeding. Careful, respectful handing should be observed, including in sport and in the training of animals for particular purposes.
Events bring animals of different origins together in an unfamiliar environment, which entails stress and health risks. Only healthy animals may participate in events. Participants and organisers are responsible for ensuring that the animals’ welfare is not impaired. Animals must therefore be given appropriate opportunities to rest and relax. Young animals that are still being suckled may only be exhibited together with the dam. Animals that are overwhelmed by the situation must be suitably accommodated and properly cared for. Organisers are obliged to take appropriate measures if participants do not fulfil their obligations towards the animals they have brought with them (see Art. 30a AniPO).
It is prohibited to set up publicly accessible enclosures of rabbits, small rodents or chicks at events (see Art. 24 letter f AniPO).
Crustaceans, including lobsters, must not be transported directly on ice or in ice water. Crustaceans living in water must be kept in their natural environment. It is therefore prohibited to keep them outside of water (see Art. 23 para. 1 letters f + g AniPO).
Tanks used to keep crustaceans and edible salt-water fish in catering establishments are classed as commercial establishments keeping wild animals, which require a licence in accordance with Article 90 para. 3 letter a of the Animal Protection Ordinance.
Since crustaceans must be stunned before being killed, lobsters may not be boiled until they have been stunned. The two approved methods of anaesthesia are electricity and the mechanical destruction of the brain, which in lobsters takes the form of multiple nerve centres (ganglia) running along the midline of the body. All ganglia must be destroyed by splitting (see Art. 178; 179a para. 1 letter j AniPO and futher information under Animal welfare at slaughter (in french).
Anyone wishing to breed animals must take care to obtain healthy animals free from traits that cause strain. Animals bred for inadmissible breeding objectives may not be exhibited (Art. 30a para. 4 letter b AniPO). Anyone who breeds animals and produces more than, for example, three litters of puppies, five litters of kittens or 1,000 ornamental fish per year must have a cantonal licence and must have completed appropriate training (Art. 101; 102 para. 4 AniPO).
Since cages, aquariums and other enclosures are often sold by mail order, it is important that animal keepers are able to recognise whether an enclosure is legally compliant for the animals they keep. Any person who sells pets or wild animals commercially must provide written information about the proper keeping of the species concerned, and about relevant legislation. The internal dimensions, species and maximum number of animals that can be kept in the enclosure must be stated (Art. 111 AniPO).
Transparency is also required when dogs are publicly offered for sale, e.g. on internet platforms or in advertisements. Persons offering dogs for sale must state their full name and address and the dog’s country of origin and country of breeding (Art. 76a AniPO).
The Animal Protection Ordinance prohibits the mishandling, neglect or unnecessary overworking of animals. It gives a detailed list of further actions which are prohibited generally or in individual species: Animal Protection Ordinance, art.16.
The Animal Welfare Act protects the dignity of the animal as well as its welfare.
The Animal Protection Ordinance regulates the different training required for keepers of different animals. The structure of the various training courses is specified in detail in the FDHA Ordinance on animal protection training.
The main points at a glance: Anyone wishing to keep pets on a commercial basis (e.g. animal shelters or animal support services with more than 5 places) or anyone who breeds or trades in pets on a commercial basis requires training and a licence (Art. 101-103 AniPO). The requirements for persons keeping wild animals can be found in Art. 85 AniPO.
Licences are issued by the cantonal animal protection authorities if the conditions relating to animal keeping, training of animal keepers and other requirements concerning the establishment are met in accordance with the Animal Protection Ordinance.
A licence is required by anyone who runs an animal shelter, offers animal support services on a commercial basis for more than five animals (see Animal Protection Ordinance, Art. 101 AniPO).
A licence is also required for the private keeping of many wild animal species and for commercial wild animal facilities. This is regulated by the Animal Protection Ordinance (Art. 89 to 92 AniPO).
If the treatment of sick or injured animals is futile or is possible only with great pain, they should be killed professionally in order to limit their suffering. In the case of pets, this should ideally be done by a veterinarian. Animals may be killed only by professional persons who have acquired the necessary knowledge and practical experience of killing the species in question under expert guidance and supervision, and who kill such animals regularly. The animal must be killed humanely and without delay. The chosen killing method must lead to the certain death of the animal. The killing process must be monitored until death occurs (see Art. 177 para. 1; 179 AniPO).
Last modification 07.02.2022