The status of animals

Switzerland officially stopped classifying animals as "things" as of 1 April 2003. The new legislation acknowledges that they are living beings capable of feeling and suffering.

The legal status of animals has been improved by a variety of new provisions, including the following:

  • If an animal is remembered in a will, the deceased's heirs or beneficiaries will, in future, be bound by that deposition to ensure that suitable care is taken of the animal.
  • In the event of a dispute concerning domestic pets, as distinct from animals held as assets or for commercial purposes, the court will award sole ownership to that party which can guarantee the better living conditions for the animal.
  • Should a domestic pet be injured or killed, a court determining damages may take into account the sentimental value (affection value) of the animal to its keeper or their relatives.
  • Anyone who injures a domestic pet must meet vets' bills, even if these exceed the value of the animal itself.
  • Domestic pets cannot be pledged or pawned.
  • Each canton must designate a specific office to which people can report stray animals. This increases the likelihood that a lost animal will soon be reunited with its owner.
  • The finder of a domestic pet must now return the lost animal to its previous owner within two months, instead of being able to keep the animal for up to five years, as was previously the case. Shortening this period will make it easier for animal sanctuaries to find new homes for strays.


For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian.


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Last modification 27.12.2004

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