The Times (UK)
April 26, 2008
http://www.timesonl ine.co.uk/ tol/news/ world/europe/ article3818457. ece
It is a world in which the goldfish are never lonely, the dogs are
always obedient and the guinea-pigs are never tormented by children.
Under a new Swiss law enshrining rights for animals, dog owners will
require a qualification, anglers will take lessons in compassion and
horses will go only in twos.
>From guinea-pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a "social
species" will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least
have contact, with others of its own kind.
The new regulation stipulates that aquariums for pet fish should not
be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the
natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light.
Goldfish are considered social animals, or Gruppentiere in German.
The creator of this animal Utopia is the Swiss federal parliament, the
Bundesrat, which adopted a law this week extending to four legs the
kind of rights usually reserved for two. The law, which comes into
force from September 1, is particularly strict over dogs: prospective
owners will have to pay for and complete a two-part course a theory
section on the needs and wishes of the animal, and a practice section,
where students will be instructed in how to walk their dog and react
to various situations that might arise during the process. The details
of the courses are yet to be fixed, but they are likely to comprise
about five theory lessons and at least five sessions "in the field".
The law extends to unlikely regions of the animal kingdom.
Anglers will also be required to complete a course on catching fish
humanely, with the Government citing studies indicating that fish can
The regulations will affect farmers, who will no longer be allowed to
tether horses, sheep and goats, nor keep pigs and cows in areas with
The legislation even mentions the appropriate keeping of rhinoceroses,
although it was not clear immediately how many, if any, were being
kept as pets in Switzerland.
Animal protection groups have greeted the news enthusiastically, but
critics say that it means an extra financial burden on taxpayers and
animal owners, and that it will be impossible to monitor the
implementation of the rules. Farmers' associations have protested,
arguing that the law will have a negative effect on the economy and
decrease their competitiveness on the international market.
One tabloid newspaper has accused the Government of pandering to the
needs of guinea-pigs while ignoring more important animal issues, such
as its failure to enforce a ban on dangerous dogs.
But Hans Wyss, head of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, said: "The
aim is not only to ensure treatment of animals appropriate to each
species, but also to decrease the risk of attacks by dangerous dogs.
Inappropriate treatment could lead to behavioural disorders."
Doris Leuthard, the Economics Minister, assured pet owners that the
authorities would not be visiting people's homes to enforce the law
although in extreme cases officials would have the power to intervene
but would count on the results of the training and a positive
response from an "informed population".
"We do not want to create a surveillance state," Mrs Leuthard said.
She added that, in an age of consumer concern for animal welfare,
farmers would benefit from the new law.
The attitude of the Government is in sharp contrast to some alleged
practices in Switzerland: activists campaigning for a ban of the
production and trade in cat fur products claim that tens of thousands
of cats are killed each year to satisfy a growing domestic and foreign
market fuelled by the belief that cat fur can alleviate the pain of
The cats are skinned by specialised tanneries for various products,
ranging from �30 for a single fur to �200 for a cardigan and more than
�800 for a large blanket which might explain the total absence of
stray cats in the country. There have also been reports coming from
France about cats disappearing from areas along the Swiss border.
Should pet owners require advance guidance as to what will be expected
of them, a goverment website provides it. One entry reads:
"Guinea-pigs are very sensitive social animals. They are interesting
to look at, but not at all appropriate to be cuddled or carried around
And a word of warning for those planning a mercy killing for their
goldfish: special chemicals will be required "to put them to death".
Flushing them down the loo is no longer an option.
Pecking order around the world
Sloths, emus, woolly lemurs and North American porcupines were
removed last year from the list of animals too dangerous to be kept at
home in Britain. The list dates from 1976, when Poppy Hull was
attacked by a pet lion while wearing a leopard-skin print coat in
A book by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand about his pet dog
Thongdaeng sold out within hours in 2002
Animal lovers from the Love Kitty group were victorious last year
after a stand-off with Chinese police. Four hundred cats, about to be
slaughtered for fur and meat, were rescued from Tianjin market. This
followed a 2006 demonstration in Beijing against a police cull of dogs
Beijing restaurants serving dog meat - believed, among other things,
to enhance sexual prowess - have been ordered to close for fear of
upsetting the 200,000 Western tourists expected to arrive for the
British gardeners were up in arms in 2006 when proposed changes to
Britain's animal-welfare legislation included offering slugs and
snails similar legal protection to cats and dogs. The measure failed,
but it did become illegal for under 16s to win goldfish at fairs
The new rules stipulate that fish tanks should not be transparent on
all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day
and night is maintained in terms of light.