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An article from the course

An article from the course

Orientation in the jungle of law

There is often - not only - among dog owners confusion about what is the law and what is not. Does the dog need to be on a leash in this park or not?

As a secure solution, some people do not let their dog off the leash anymore, “then I cannot do anything wrong”. - But with that you are in any case fundamentally wrong, because:

Art. 71 of the Animal Protection Ordinance: Movement

Dogs need to be taken outside on a daily basis according to their needs. As long as possible, they should be able to move without a leash.

So you have to inform yourself, in order to take account of the rights of the dog and decide case by case.Some believe that court decisions are all about stopping criminals and making them pay for their maliciousness. But that is only the case in about one fifth of all court cases. In 80% of the cases, it is about the mutual interest of two parties. They are not always easy decisions about white or black, but about Solomonic judgments that consider the interests of both fighting parties.It is not only about interest groups (like dog owners, parents, car drivers), but also about  interests, because there are also car driving parents with dogs. Which interests exist, what motivates the people? Too simple answers to that were: Money or sex or self-interest. Yet, there is a great range of interests that explain the human behavior:

Starting with self-benefit, wealth, personality, honor, fame, ...

  • to the sex drive, the need for a marriage and creating and securing a family, an urge to work in a team (club, company, community or nation),

  • ein Drang nach Schaffen im Team (Verein, Firma, Gemeinde oder Nation),

  • a compassion for people of all nations (cosmopolitanism, responsibility for all people),

  • a feeling of connection with nature, flora and fauna, as animal lover and owner, as watcher and nature preserver,

  • a need to live in a clean and intact environment: water, ground, air, mountains,

  • a spiritual drive: art, culture, spiritual things, spirits like angels, fairies, deceased souls and many more.

  • and last but not least a need for god, a supreme being, a supreme order, a religion.

The just mentioned needs and drives are pronounced differently in each human, some are missing altogether. But seen as a whole, those are the motives which drive the people and there can be conflicts. Conflicts that are supposed to be ruled by laws or moral laws and which may have to be decided in court in some cases.

Now after I have digressed so much, back to our dogs. Regarding the animal protection in Switzerland, something novel happened since 2005: a change of paradigm, basically a lawful revolution.

Reason for this law is to protect the dignity and welfare of our animals. Art. 1 of the Animal Protection Ordinance.

With this the animals receive their rights. In the early days, they were looked at as subjects, things that maybe belonged to someone, at which you can conduct property damage. Nowadays you can sue for the rights of an animal in court against an animal violator or an animal ignoramus.

Art. 3 of the Animal Protection Ordinance defines the used terms:

In this law they mean:

a. Dignity: Intrinsic value of the animal, that needs to be watched when dealing with it. The dignity of an animal is not respected when the burden on the animal cannot be justified by overriding interests. A burden is present when the animal suffers from pain, suffering or damage, when it is frightened or being reduced, when its appearance or ability is profoundly intervened or it is excessively instrumentalized.

b. Welfare: The welfare of the animals has been given when:

1. the keeping and feeding are in such a way that their body functions and behavior are not disturbed and they are not overwhelmed with their ability to adapt.

2. the humane behavior is guaranteed within the biological ability to adapt.

3. they are clinically healthy,

4. pains, suffering, damages and fright are prevented;

In consideration of this, I live by a golden rule with my dog: What I do not want done to me, I do not do to anyone.

And I definitely would not want to be on the leash all time or walk around disciplined “by heel”. And especially not as a dog when you have the urge to take everything in through your nose: because then you have to be able to pause sometimes and follow a scent trail or smell more intensely.

The same counts for this: Dogs need to have enough contact with humans, and as far as possible, with other dogs on a daily basis. That is not only being said by a dog owner but also by Art. 70 in the Animal Protection Ordinance under the headline Social Contact. And social contact is much more for dogs than just seeing each other from afar  or saying “hello”, smelling quickly. They want to run together, scramble, find the strongest, rollick about etc.That cannot be replaced by the dog owner with playing “bring the stick”. And the legal restriction “as far as possible” may not regularly be replaced by “ I do not have time for that right now”. The social contact shall be granted daily, otherwise the dog will suffer. Dogs want to be able to play with other dogs daily. And at least “contact” other humans, smell them. Trying to find out if they like them or not; what kind of child the other one is. That does not work when the dog is always being kept on a distance to other walkers. Of course - and that is when the legal system and our moral  sense comes to play - the desire of the other walkers needs to be considered. It cannot happen that a big dog runs towards a small child and scares it. We also consider Muslims who usually panic when a dog comes running towards them, even with little lap dogs. But there are walkers that are happy to be in touch with a dog, even call him over. You should not stop or prevent that and keep the dog on a short leash.


There are also good reasons for dog owners to keep their dogs away from others: because the female dog is in heat at the moment and should not be mated. That should be considered. And there are watch dogs that should be kept sharp. And those dogs you keep away from people and other dogs on purpose to keep them sharp. There the social contact will not work. You have to give them that. From this drill method you see what some overly scared dog owners have done wrong: They hold the dog on a very short leash and yell from far away: “My dog does not want any contact. He has been bitten so many times.” In fact, that is why there have been biting attacks, because due to the lack of contact, the own dog became more and more aggressive and only through barking and attacks, he would get contact with others. And they revenge themselves in the same way. Once it has come to this, you have get the dog used to new contacts systematically, so that they can reduce the aggression.

Now to the excessive “leash duties”: In the canton Schwyz, there has been a dog law for over 30 years that sets a general leash responsibility on public streets, paths and parks. Since 2005 and the Animal Protection Ordinance, this leash law violates the federal law and the rights of our animals. It would be the duty of the canton to rewrite this law, so that it matches the Animal Protection Ordinance. Since the canton will not do that, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the dog owner to behave correctly, meaning to ignore the leash law and giving the dog enough freedom.

In a statement of the government council from March 9, 2010, in response to a question, he justifies the leash law: „From the point of view of a humane keeping, the dogs should ideally physically and psychologically be entertained enough. Would a dog be on a leash all the time, that could not be fulfilled and it would be against the law of the Animal Protection Ordinance from April 23, 2008, SR 455.1, TSchV. On the other hand, the free movement of a dog does not necessarily need to be on public grounds. Therefore, the law about the keeping of dogs in the canton Schyz is not inconsistent with the Animal Protection Ordinance. The actual problem is that many dog owners cannot offer their dog a private piece of land as an appropriate outlet and that dog owners often do not have enough time to take their animals outside and find a suitable place for that.“ Quoted from

So we should stick to private properties for the social contacts of our dogs: So daily garden parties for the dogs of the neighborhood? Extensive and communal walking in your own private park? Are you crazy?!

The government council apparently knows that its law is not to be reconciled with the law of the Animal Protection Ordinance, but steadfastly refuses to ease up on the leash law.

That is why Christine Krättli from the newspaper “Obersee Nachrichten” had the idea to wake up the Swiss rebel spirits and fight back: That is why I recommend all dog owners in the canton Schwyz to let their dogs run freely, with the exception of the above named circumstances. Fined dog owners I advise to not pay the fee and wait for a lawsuit. Maybe there will be some dog friendly politicians who will finally correct this unlawful dog law. Source


Ralf Aerne from Altendorf SZ has dared to do that and here is his story how he took it all the way to federal court: if you do not want to fight, only the Solomonic solution helps: You put a short leash on the dog and let him run freely with it. That way you follow both the federal law and the dog law of the canton Schwyz.


And not only the dogs, but we shall follow nicely as well, right?

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