Cantons impose mandatory use of leashes during the breeding season
Many native animal species breed in spring. In some cantons, dog owners are therefore required to keep their dogs on a leash in forests. The Stiftung für das Tier im Recht (TIR) urges dog owners to make sure that their dogs do not disturb or hunt wildlife, regardless of the regulation in their respective canton.
March 29, 2019
Each canton can determine its own rules regarding dog leashing during the breeding season
For example, in the cantons of Aargau, Basel-Land, Solothurn and, since 2014, in Lucerne as well, dogs must be kept on a leash from April 1 to July 31 in forests and along the forest edges..
Neuchâtel and Geneva have introduced a slightly shorter mandatory leashing period. In Neuchâtel, mandatory leashing in forests applies form April 15 to June 30 and from April 1 to July 15 in Geneva. The dog law of Schaffhausen requires dog leashing in forests and along the forest edges during the breeding season. Glarus even goes as far as to impose mandatory leashing in forests and along forest edges all year round, exempting hunting and working dogs from this regulation.
In Obwalden and Nidwalden, the mandatory leashing period is from December 1 (in Obwalden) and 15 (in Nidwalden) to April 30. In certain areas, this period extends through the summer months: In Nidwalden, the leashing period extends until June 15 in the nature reserves Lauelenegg-Nätschen, Arven-Scheligsee, and Scheidegg. In Obwalden, the nature reserves Schlierengrat, Nüwenalpwald, Schattenberg, Rosalp/Gerlisalp/Gemsgrube, Bärengraben, Teufimatt, and Ross-/Dälenboden are protected by a mandatory leashing period extending until July 15. In the canton of Zurich, compulsory leashing applies to certain areas with specific signposting. In forests and at forest edges, as well as in darkness, dogs must be kept at a short distance. However, there is no rule requiring general dog leashing.
Are there any rules regarding the leash itself?
There are no rules regarding the length or nature of the leash because the laws aim to protect wildlife. It is therefore permitted to use long dog leashes as long as the dog owner can control it. This gives dogs a certain amount of freedom despite the leashing requirement
What happens if I do not comply with the leashing requirement?
Violating this statutory obligation is a criminal offense punishable by a fine, irrespective of whether the dog was actually hunting. If the dog bites a deer or another animal, the dog owner or keeper is liable for the damage caused by the dog. In case of negligence (for example, someone lets a notoriously uncontrollable dog run freely on breeding grounds), there may be an additional punishment for cruelty to animals.
Almost all cantons allow for dogs to be shot down by a wildlife official or another person if caught hunting. For example, dogs that are repeatedly seen hunting in the canton of Zurich can be shot down by game tenants or other authorized persons, if the dog owner has been given prior written warning. Similar provisions exist in the cantons of Aargau, Basel-Land, Freiburg, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, St. Gallen, Thurgau, and Uri. In the cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Innerrhoden, Basel-Stadt, Glarus, Graubünden, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Valais, Vaud and Zug, it is not even necessary to give dog owners prior notice. However, some cantons at least require an initial attempt to catch the dog.
Why is it a problem if my dog hunts wildlife?
Many dog owners believe their dog isn't doing any harm to wild animals as long as it chases them and doesn't actually attack. What they don't realize, however, is the fact that the this causes extreme distress to the hunted animals, especially in spring time, when the animals are weakened from the long and exhausting winter months. On top of that, spring is the breeding season and newly born and young animals are easy prey for dogs. Even if the dog doesn't actually bite, a hunted animal can suffer cardiac arrest or have a spontaneous abortion. There is also a chance that the wild animal (and the dog as well) will run into fencing or onto a street and that the young animals will be separated from their mothers. If an animal is actually bitten by a dog, it usually suffers a slow and painful death because domestic dogs do not go for the throat and only manage to hurt the animal. If an incident occurs with a wild animal, the dog owner is legally required to report it to the hunting authorities so that the animal can be traced and relieved of its suffering. Anyone who fails to comply with this requirement may be liable to prosecution for negligent cruelty to animals.
Strong request to all dog owners
The TIR calls upon all dog owners to take all necessary measures to prevent their dogs from hunting wild animals or disturbing them in any other way - even if there is no leashing requirement in their canton. Every dog is a potential hunter, regardless of its size and age.
You can find an overview of the relevant cantonal provisions here.