According to official statistics, there were nearly half a million dogs, almost 1.5 million cats and 85,000 horses living in Switzerland in 2009 (2018 edit: Based on more recent statistics, this number is much higher: in 2016 there were 521'000 dogs, 1'655'000 cats and 117'000 horses living in Switzerland). In this issue of "Discover Switzerland" we aim to present different aspects of owning a pet – whether imported from your home country or acquired over here. There's a personal tale from one of our readers, and for those unable to own a pet, we feature some close-up animal encounters for children and adults.
- All dogs must be micro-chipped and registered in the Amicus database
- Dogs imported from abroad must be presented to a veterinarian in Switzerland within 10 days.
- Biting incidents must be reported to each canton's veterinary office.
- There are strict guidelines on pet protection, obviously against cruelty but also for dogs and cats to have sufficient contact with human beings.
Requirements for owning a dog will vary from canton to canton. Contact your local cantonal veterinary office for specific information. Rules include: using leashes where signed; taking out civil liability insurance; vaccinating against Rabies; disposing of dog faeces in allocated containers (such as Robidog). In Geneva all dogs must wear an official control mark on their collars.
A veterinarian (Tierarzt in German, vétérinaire in French and veterinario in Italian) will advise on important vaccinations.
The Federal Veterinarian Office (FVO in English, OVF in French, BVET in German) provides comprehensive information and will answer questions sent by email.
Travelling with your pet
Dogs travelling with their owners to and from the UK require: a microchip; rabies vaccination; tapeworm treatment; and a pet passport to confirm these requirements. Dogs have to be transported in an approved carrier, while their owners have to use an approved route.
Dogs require tickets on all forms of public transport. On SBB trains, however, small dogs up to 30cm in height can travel free of charge as hand luggage if carried in a carrier or basket.
If you're looking to buy a pet in the Basel area, then it might be worth considering buying one from a shelter, particularly if you are an experienced pet owner who can offer abandoned animals the kind of support they need. The Tierschutz Beider Basel in Munchenstein has a wide variety of animals looking for placement in caring homes. The Tierschutzbund Basel has a cat shelter in Gundeli.
At the Tierschutz Beider Basel there is a wide range of courses and coaching available (in English on request), in subjects such as animal care and grooming. Others services include haircuts for pets, animal physiotherapy and wellness treatments such as massage. The payments for these services help to provide the shelter with much needed funding, so visiting here for treatment is a wonderful way to support your own pet, as well as others too.
In Basel, as in other parts of Switzerland, you'll find a high standard of veterinary care, with most vets speaking good English. Complementary as well as traditional medicine is widely offered. The Kleintierpraxis Sevogel is located near the main SBB station, and is a friendly practice with a gentle, respectful approach to animals. They even have their own hydrotherapy centre for animals. Many expats also use the Gemeinschaftspraxis für Pferde und Klientiere in Oberwil.
There are couple of good options for dog holiday homes. Hundferienheim Forellenbach in Therwil, is reasonably priced and has a high standard of care. Dogs can run and play together in a pack, and there is individual housing for older dogs, or those who prefer solitude. Hundeland is paradise for dogs, with plenty of open space for them to play and explore. Here dogs can take a 'sample' holiday of two nights, to ensure they feel comfortable, before being left for a longer duration.
If your preferred option is a pet-sitter in a friendly home environment, then word of mouth is often the best way to find one in your area. You can also try posting an ad on Nachbarnet, a Basel website, where people exchange services as a friendly way to get to know their neighbours.
For dog-owners near the Reinach area, there is a regular walk on Wednesdays for those who want to make dog-walking more interesting and fun for dog and owner. Organized by Eva Freskgard, a breeder and trainer, the group shares tips and advice. They meet beside the ISB football field in Reinach, but check with Eva for the exact meeting dates and times.
Zoo Basel has a special children's zoo, containing farm animals such sheep, goats and mini-pigs. Children over the age of 8 are welcome to come and volunteer in the zoo every weekday morning at 8:00 or afternoon at 13:30. They stay for half a day and help out with feeding, cleaning the stables, and even taking the llamas and ponies for a walk. The idea behind the volunteering scheme is to give children the chance to interact with animals in a responsible, care-giving role rather than simply just for 'entertainment'.
The Blindhundeschule (School for Guide Dogs for the Blind) has an open day every first Saturday of the month. Visitors get the chance to view the dogs in training, and if possible the puppies too. There is also the opportunity to watch a guide dog at work.
Contributed by Kate Orson
A personal experience
My two she-dogs go with me (nearly) everywhere – on trains, trams and buses. Our commute is about 75-85 minutes depending on the weather. I ride my bike while Kyra and Kylie run, either in front of me when it's sunny, or behind me if the ground is wet. I ride slowly, they jog alongside on the sidewalk, and we meet many smiles on our way to the train station. If it's raining they ride in their dog basket attached to the handlebars of my bike with a click-fix safety attachment.
They love the train station at Romanshorn, where they act as if they owned it. After the bike is locked up, we board our train, they jump into their train-bag and off we go to work. They know that once we're on board it's sleep time. There are several carrier options: the soft-sided train bag from your local pet store, or a wheelie bag, not as widely available, but possible to acquire. I once saw a girl whip out a plastic Coop bag and tell her Jack Russell terrier to get in, which he did without hesitation. He sat there with his head held high, waiting for the next command.
During busy commuting times, I carry my dogs in their bag. Out of rush hour, however, they walk off the train, heading for the stairs to catch our connection. Trams generally follow the same rule as trains, but I've never been checked on a tram while my dogs were with me. Buses are another story. In my town, one of the bus drivers makes me put the dogs in their bag before he lets me onto the bus. Other drivers say hello and pet the dogs as I show my GA card to the back of their head.
Nearly every restaurant I've been inside makes a real effort to accommodate us. The offer of dog-water as soon as we sit down is no longer a surprise to me, especially when we're in restaurants on hiking paths or up in the hills.
Stores like H&M, Manor or C&A just ask for leash use. Ikea and Coop (City & DIY) don't allow any animals under any circumstances. Butchers, bakers (and I don't know about candlestick-makers) have understandable restrictions on four-legged visitors. Very often there are dog tie-ups near the entrance, to ensure your beloved doesn't wander in after you. The post office also provides tie-ups outside, but it must be the officialdom of the business transacted there that prohibits dogs inside. Supermarkets are also Fido-free zones, but over the eastern border in Austria, the Interspar in Dornbirn allows dogs to ride on a blanket or in a bag in your shopping basket while you're shopping. You're 100% responsible to pay for anything they consume while your back is turned. Fortunately, Kyra left enough of the label from the cheese to be scanned at the cash register.
Contributed by Melony Rose
Getting a pet in Switzerland isn't as easy as asking "How much is that doggy in the window?" It can be a hassle for prospective pet owners but it also helps weed out those for whom getting a pet is a passing fancy. Most people go to a breeder or an animal rescue (Tierheim) to get a cat or dog and they tend to be expensive. Be prepared to pay several hundred francs for a dog or cat, even one from a Tierheim. Ads offering puppies or kittens "free to a good home" are rare.
The start-up costs of pet ownership don't end with what you pay for the animal. Dog owners are required to get Sachkundenachweis (often referred to as SKN), which is a Compulsory Training Certificate. Dogs must be micro chipped (often included in the purchase price) and registered with the local authorities so that the owners can be assessed for the annual dog tax.
Once you take the dog home and get it properly registered and educated, the day-to-day costs of owning a pet kick in and they, too, are more expensive than what most expats are used to. Basic dog and cat food can be purchased in supermarkets and premium brands are available in pet stores such as Fressnapf, Qualipet and Zoo Kakadu in the Bern area. The first two offer on-line shopping with home delivery and Zoo Kakadu has a delivery service for large orders. These pet stores have much more than pet food, of course. You can buy everything you need for a dog, cat or other house-pet. You can also buy pet fish, reptiles and rodents in larger pet stores.
Veterinary care in Switzerland is truly top-notch. It isn't difficult to find a vet near where you live for routine care and immunizations. Complicated cases are usually referred to one of Switzerland's specialized veterinary hospitals such as the University of Bern's Veterinary Clinic. In case of an emergency, contact your regular vet first; they will arrange to meet you and your pet or refer you to an on-call partner or hospital. The veterinary emergency number for Bern and its suburbs (costing 3.13 francs per minute) is: 0900 00 25 25
When you go away for holiday, you can leave your pet in good hands here at home. You can arrange for cat-sitting services to come to your home and look after your cat in its own surroundings. Or you can board your cat in a pet hotel such as Katzenpension Zampone in Oberbalm.
There are also many dog-sitting options to choose from that offer both vacation boarding and dog-daycare, for example Wau! Hundehort in Bern and Hundehort Amici in Schüpfen bei Bern. Keep in mind that many pet hotels are located in rural areas, so be sure to ask if the caretaker can offer a pick-up service for your dog if it is difficult to reach by public transport. Vets often have contacts for pet sitting service or pet hotels.
Contributed by Querida Long
The City of Geneva website has a list of places where dogs are forbidden, and also publishes the Guide Pratique du Chien Citoyen à Genève (a practical guide to dogs living in Geneva), showing a map of places where dogs may roam freely. etat.geneve.ch
For lost and found pets, the Amicus includes a national data bank of tagged pets. You may also consult Europetnet – the European databank.
There are two societies for the protection of animals in the Geneva area: the SGPA (Geneva Society for the Protection of Animals), and the SVPA (Canton of Vaud Society of Protection of Animals). A comprehensive list of animal refuges in the French-speaking cantons can be found at:
Excellent expat information on vets is provided at:
while a full list of vets in Geneva and French-speaking Switzerland can be found at:
There are many shops and stores specializing in pet food and supplies, many of them with websites and some of them with home delivery and food emergency, such as:
Other pet provision stores in the Romandie area include:
while Cats and Dogs gives a clear location map of their 20 stores throughout the Lac Léman area:
If you are away or ill, you will be to find pet sitting services at:
For those whose lifestyle or work prevent them from owning a dog, but who yearn to have a dog-encounter, the town of Martigny at the foot of the Grand-St-Bernard pass is home to the world-famous St-Bernard dogs. The Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard has an excellent display of all things St-Bernard-related, from pictures on chocolate boxes to a fi lm showing how those chosen to be mountain rescue dogs are trained. It has a dog-laden gift shop and an excellent restaurant with a sunny terrace called Le Collier d'Or or the Golden Collar. Visitors can see several of the dogs, both inside and out, and there are dog-petting sessions for
In March and April the kennels – situated just outside the town of Martigny and owned by the Fondation Barry du Grand-St-Bernard – organise twice-weekly, 90-minute walks through the local vineyards with groups of up to 10 people and 4 dogs. By June, most of the dogs have been taken up to their summer home on top of the pass (2500m), very close to the Italian border. Here the entrance ticket to the museum includes a tour of the kennels. The Musée du Grand-Saint-Bernard presents the full story of how the most famous St-Bernard, called Barry, saved dozens of hapless travellers in the 1800s from the snowstorms assailing this high mountain pass. The museum – situated by the hospice founded by Augustine monks in the Middle Ages – is open from June to September. Dog-walking is also available to the public, during the summer months up on the pass.
Enthusiasts of the St-Bernard dog can sign up for the newsletter (in French only), which gives regular updates on the latest puppies to arrive, and when the dogs are taken up to their summer home.
Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard
Rue du Levant 34
027 720 49 20
Whatever your favourite dog, cat or other animal, there's much to enjoy with your pets in Switzerland.
Contributed by Caroline Thonger
Photos: ©Caroline Thonger, ©flickriver.ch, ©zoobasel.ch, ©blindenhundeschule.ch, ©lescalaire.ch