Owning a Dog in Switzerland: All You Need To Know

Around 43% of Swiss residents have pets, but only 12% own dogs. Switzerland is a dog-friendly place, but owning a dog in a highly regulated country isn’t easy. It’s known for having strict rules for humans; you might be restricted even more as a dog owner. That’s why you want to learn about all ins and outs of having a dog in Switzerland before you get one.

There are several rules imposed on dog owners in Switzerland. For example, dogs must be kept on the leash at all times and shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours at a time. Similar to Germany, Swiss dog owners must pay a dog tax every year and have private liability coverage.

Indeed, owning a dog comes with immense responsibility. Whether you are looking to buy one or bring one from your home country, there are various rules and regulations to watch out for. Currently, about 500,000 happy dogs are living in Switzerland. If you want to add one more, this article will be super helpful.

Moving to Switzerland with a dog

Moving to Switzerland with a dog is pretty straightforward. Your pet must be vaccinated and microchipped. Within 10 days after entering the country, dog owners need to take a dog to the vet and register it in a central database for dogs.

Switzerland is the only European country requiring all dogs to be microchipped and registered in a special database by the time they are three months old.

What do you need to have to bring your dog to Switzerland?

1. Microchips – your dog must have one. The chip contains a unique number as well as a code for Switzerland that will be reposted in the national database. The central databank for dogs includes information about the dog, e.g., breed, color, age, name, sex, and a dog owner.

Puppies must have microchips and be registered within three months after birth.

2. Pet passport – ensure your dog has one before bringing it to Switzerland. A pet passport must include information about the pet and completed vaccinations.

3. Vaccinations – dogs from the EU must have a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before entering Switzerland. Pets entering Switzerland from a country with a high incidence of rabies must have a Blood Titer Test 3 months prior to departure.

Here are some of the important rules and restrictions about importing pets to Switzerland:

  • Puppies younger than 56 days can only enter Switzerland with their mother.
  • Dogs from non-EU countries need health certificates.
  • Dogs with docked ears and/or tails aren’t allowed.
  • The maximum number of pets you could bring from non-EU countries is 5.

Buying a dog in Switzerland

There are few places you can get your new friend in Switzerland. These include:

  • Breeders
  • Pet shelters
  • Online shops

In some of those places, you will pay, while others will give you a dog at no cost.

If you adopt a dog from a Swiss animal shelter, you will probably need to pay a small fee and sign a contract. But you will also get advice on dog care, education, and housing.

Nonetheless, always take time and assess your choice carefully. You may come across some bad breeders or people who illegally import dogs. If you are looking for a puppy, it must be at least 8 weeks old.

Dog shelters

Dog shelters are also known as Tierheim or Tierschutzverein and can be found in any Swiss canton. There are many dogs, including puppies and grown-ups waiting for their new home. In Switzerland, most animal shelters are run by animal welfare organizations.

Before making a final decision, you will be advised by the competent staff. Dogs in shelters are fully vaccinated and come with the contract. Before you adopt a new puppy, you will have enough time to get to know your pet. You can see some of the dog shelters in Switzerland here.

Breeders

Acquiring a dog through a certified breeder is another popular option to get a pet in Switzerland. You can look for breeders (Züchter) in your area via the official German dog breeder association (VDH). Only breeders who are official members of the VDH can legally sell dogs. 

Besides that, Switzerland has two labels for certified dog breeders: the golden quality seal of the Swiss Cynological Society (SKG) and the Certodog breeder label. Dog breeders in Switzerland must include their addresses in advertisements for the sale of dogs or puppies.

Registered breeders are usually interested in getting to know you as a person. They will allow visits to see the puppies, their mother, and the room they are growing up in. They will also have dewormed the puppies several times and provide you with a purchase contract and health & vaccination record. 

It’s recommended to visit several breeders and compare the conditions where they grow up before buying one.

In general, puppies should not be separated from their mother and siblings until they are 10 to 12 weeks old. In fact, the sale of puppies under 56 days of age is prohibited in Switzerland.

Online offers

Nowadays, the internet is full of dog ads. Some offers are legit, while some might be suspicious or even fraudulent.

Moreover, you can often see “mass-produced” puppies being sold online. They mostly come from breeders of Eastern European countries. Be careful with such offers and always check the detailed information of the seller.

Adopting a dog in Switzerland

Adopting a dog is always a good idea. You can choose between hundreds of rescue animals in one of the animal welfare’s shelters.

If you adopt a dog from a Swiss animal shelter, you will probably need to pay a fee and sign a contract. You’ll also get advice on dog care, education, and housing.

Check the shelter near you on this website.

How to register a dog in Switzerland

In Switzerland, all dogs must be registered with Amicus – the central database of microchipped dogs. Whether you are importing a dog from abroad or buying it in Switzerland, you need to register your dog with your local commune (Kreisbüro or Gemeinde).

Any change of address or owner, or the dog’s death, must be reported to the Amicus within 10 days. In addition, your vet will register the puppy within the canton.

Here is how to do it.

As a dog owner, you must:

  1. Register with your municipality (Wohngemeinde) and inform them about your dog ownership.
  2. The municipality will register you in the Amicus database. You will then receive your login data for Amicus.
  3. If you ever move, you need to report your new address to your municipality (Wohngemeinde) within 10 days.

Checklist for new dog owners in Switzerland:

  1. The dog you buy or adopt must have a microchip and be registered.
  2. You must be registered as a dog owner (see above).
  3. Bring your new dog to the vet, they will register it in database.
  4. For any changes to the dog’s data, contact your veterinarian.

If you import or bring a dog from abroad:

  • Your dog must have a microchip.
  • Bring your new dog to the vet with 10 days of entering the country, they will register it in national database.

Visit AMICUS – the Swiss national database for registered dogs.

Dogs laws and rules in Switzerland

“My pup husky Benni”

The rules for pets in Switzerland also make it somewhat complex to have a dog in this country. For instance, dogs must have contact with humans daily and, if possible, with other dogs. They should get daily exercise and go outdoors.

You shouldn’t leave a dog alone for more than four hours at a time. So, owning a dog in Switzerland isn’t advisable for a full-time working person.

Moreover, dogs aren’t allowed in grocery stores, post offices, or other public buildings.

Luckily, Switzerland no longer requires dog owners to take a dog training course, as it was until 2017. But there are still several important rules and regulations dog owners must know.

Some actions against dogs are illegal in Switzerland, for example, cropping the ears or docking the tail. You also cannot use certain devices, e.g., a shock collar.

In addition to the national animal protection regulations, almost every canton has its own dog law. Cantonal dog laws, however, can vary widely. In some cantons, certain breeds are banned altogether; in others, there is a licensing requirement for keeping a dog. While some cantons even enforce keeping a dog on a leash all the time.

Consequently, when entering or moving to another canton, you always need to check with their requirements and rules.

Check current dog laws in Switzerland here:

1. Mandatory registration at local authorities and microchip

As we previously described, your dog must be registered in the national database for dogs in Switzerland. In addition, every dog requires a microchip. Puppies must be microchipped by a vet by the time they are 3 months old.

Dogs imported from abroad must be taken to a vet within 10 days of entering the country. The vet passes on the dog’s details to the AMICUS database. A change of the dog owner must also be reported to the database.

You simply need to visit a veterinarian for the initial consultation after getting your puppy. They will place the microchip and register the dog under your name the very same day.

2. Pet passport

Your dog must also have a pet passport. This passport will be valid in the entire EU. The pet passport is a small booklet that provides all of the essential information on your dog, including an identification number and proof of all relevant vaccinations. It’s valid for a dog’s entire life.

The pet passport serves as a health certificate and can only be issued by a licensed vet. Information about all vaccinations should be kept in this document.

The vet also needs to ensure that the pet is microchipped, has had the appropriate rabies vaccine, and has undergone a blood test to ensure that the vaccine is present in the pet’s system. If your dog was vaccinated before implanting a microchip, you would have to revaccinate it again.

Thanks to the EU pet passport, your pet is allowed to travel. However, EU pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid for travel in European Union. In that case, you will need an animal health certificate instead.

3. Leash

Swiss cantons might impose different rules regarding keeping your dog on a leash. Some oblige dog owners to keep an animal on the leash at all times, while others might have exceptions. Generally, dogs must be kept on a leash in the city and residential areas.

4. Picking dog’s poo

Dog owners are obliged to pick up their dogs’ waste using special bags provided by the municipalities.

Robidogs or dog waste disposal systems can be found throughout Switzerland. These are green containers (each about the size of a rubbish bin) and should be used to dispose of the dog’s waste properly. They dispense plastic bags for dogs poo.

As of now, more than 1,600 communities across Switzerland are using 40,000 of these green boxes to collect dog’s waste.

5. Insurance

All dogs must be insured by civil liability insurance for dog owners, which must be taken out with a private insurance company. A dog liability insurance is a recommended addition to the main coverage; however, not obligatory.

6. Dog license

In several cantons, dog owners must obtain a special dog license for large breeds over 25 kg and 56 cm. It’s necessary from the age of 18 months or within 3 months when the owner changes.

For this, owners will need to pass a control, behavior, and training test performed by an authorized dog trainer.

7. Accidents must be reported

If your dog injures a human, an animal, or is particularly aggressive, it must be reported to the competent cantonal service or cantonal veterinarian office.

Besides obvious regulations, Switzerland imposed some rules to keep dogs safe and happy. Make sure you follow them as an owner to avoid any legal problems:

  • Dogs must, each day, have sufficient contact with human beings and, as far as possible, other dogs.
  • Those kept in closed spaces must be able, every day, to take exercise according to their needs and spend enough time in the open air.
  • Those kept tied up must be able to move around in an area of at least 20 square metres.
  • Those kept in the open air must have a shelter and water available.
  • A dog owner must make sure the dog doesn’t endanger either human beings or animals.
  • Treating dogs with excessive harshness, firing shots to punish them, and using spike collars is prohibited in Switzerland.

Violation of rules

You might face hefty fines when not following the rules for dogs and dog owners. For example, you could be fined for walking your dog without a leash in some cantons.

The punishment starts at 30 CHF and goes up quickly. Passing through certain areas with the dog, such as playgrounds or kid zones, is prohibited in Switzerland.

If you are caught walking your dog there, you could be fined heavily. Cleaning the ground after your dog is your obligation as an owner. Not doing this might lead to fines as well.

The highest monetary punishments are imposed on violators of animal welfare laws. Dog owners could face a fine of up to 20,000 CHF. This includes:

  • illegal pet ownership
  • illegal breeding
  • animal abandonment

Furthermore, mistreating and neglecting animals can lead to severe punishment of up to three years in prison.

Cost of owning a dog in Switzerland

The cost of living for humans is extremely high in Switzerland, and so it’s for dogs. Make sure you have enough budget to spend on your pet each month, plus some incidental expenses.

Costs Things you need for a dog
Dog’s purchasing price600 – 2,800 CHFPurchasing price will depend on the place where you buy it, breed, etc.
Initial expenses 700 – 1,200 CHFFood and water bowl, leash, collar, basket, transport box, veterinary costs for castration, vaccinations, deworming, chipping, registration, and optional courses (e.g. puppy training)
Annual expenses1,500 – 2,000 CHF annuallyDepending on the dog’s size: food, accessories, dog tax, liability, regular veterinary expenses for vaccinations and parasite treatments, stay in daycare centers, etc.

You should factor in costs for acquiring, feeding, and caring for your dog, making sure they get good training, exercise, and walk enough. All of these cost money. If you are working full time, be prepared to spend money on dog daycare or hire someone to take care of it. Hourly rates for workers are very high in Switzerland.

That’s why many people who are employed full-time don’t own dogs. If we take only food for your fluffy one, expect to spend from 50 CHF to 100 CHF per month.

Statistics have shown that a dog or cat will cost you as much as 1,000 CHF when you initially bring them into your household. This amount includes necessities like microchipping, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and items such as toys, leashes, litter boxes, and food/water bowls. Additionally, you will need to spend around 1,000 CHF each year for keeping a pet.

The price can go much higher depending on your buying decisions. Additionally, you should calculate for unforeseen veterinary costs if you don’t have pet health insurance. For this reason, you might consider purchasing pet health insurance to help pay for vet bills.

Costs of owning a dog in Switzerland also depend on the dog breed; dangerous dogs are the most expensive, while big dogs usually are more expensive than smaller ones.

Costs you should consider when getting a dog are:

  • Purchase costs
  • Basic equipment (bed, food & drink bowl, bed, leash, collar, etc.)
  • Dog food
  • Health care
  • Insurance
  • Dog tax
  • Care products
  • Toys

Public transportation

Taking your pup on the train or bus isn’t free in Switzerland. Dog owners pay half of the price for a dog ride, even if you carry them in a special bag the whole journey. An annual unlimited dog travel pass is available at 805 CHF a year for frequent travels.

Dog insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, you, as a dog owner, are 100% liable for damages or injuries caused by your dog. Therefore, you must have personal liability insurance, which includes coverage for your fluffy friend.

In fact, most cantons in Switzerland require dog owners to take out liability insurance. However, its price is pretty low, and the coverage scope is more than enough – between 1-5 CHF million, depending on the cantonal law.

Additionally, you should consider getting pet health insurance to cover your vet bills and potentially any needed surgeries. Besides, purebreds tend to have more varying health problems that occur more frequently.

Visiting a vet can cost you a dime in Switzerland; hence, having health coverage for your dog is highly recommended but not obligatory.

Dog tax in Switzerland

Dog owners in Switzerland must pay taxes on their lowed fluffy friends. The tax varies depending on the canton. Generally, expect to pay between 40 CHF and 150 CHF each year.

The Swiss municipalities use this money to finance dog’s waste disposal systems and plastic bags, e.g., Robidog systems, which you must use to pick up your pup’s poo.

Don’t forget to notify your municipality when changing the address since your dog tax is linked to your address.

Nicholas

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

Recent Posts