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Swiss to vote on introduction of lawyers for animals

International Herald Tribune - Europe

Swiss to soon vote on introduction of lawyers for animals

The Press

Published: July 26, 2007

BERN, Switzerland: The Swiss could soon be voting on whether lawyers should be allowed to defend animals in court.

The Swiss agency for the protection of animals (PSA) submitted a petition Thursday to the federal government to introduce cantonal (state) lawyers for animals.

It made the request after having collected 148,294 signatures, more than the 100,000 needed to prompt a referendum to introduce a new law.

The aim is to further crack down on the mistreatment of animals. While anyone who mistreats an animal can hire a defense lawyer, there is nobody to represent martyred or dead creatures, the PSA said in a statement.

Launched in 2006, the initiative aims to extend to all of Switzerland a practice which was introduced in the canton (state) of Zurich some 15 years ago.

"The numbers of cases examined and the sentences handed down are clearly higher than the rest of Switzerland," according to the animal rights defenders, who are confident their project will succeed."

The initiative proposes establishing animal lawyers in each canton (state) to investigate and represent the victims in cases going to court. The work of the lawyers will be backed by higher fines for violations of animal protection laws.

Referendums are the cornerstone of Switzerland's system of direct democracy, and citizens cast ballots several times a year on a wide variety of questions.

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