Throughout Switzerland, the number of animal welfare-related criminal proceedings has steadily increased in the last few years. In 2017, the number of cases dropped for the first time in 13 years. The number of cases (1691) was about the same as in 2014, which represents a decline of about 30% compared to 2016.
In absolute terms, most of the proceedings were conducted in the Canton of Berne, where 319 cases account for almost one-fifth of the total case material in the year under review and which, at 3.09 proceedings per 10'000 inhabitants, clearly exceeds the Swiss average of 2.16 proceedings per 10'000 inhabitants. In absolute terms, the Canton of Zurich comes in second with 272 cases, although with 1.81 cases per 10,000 inhabitants it falls short of the Swiss average. The canton of Aargau ranks third with 179 cases and scores above average in relative terms with 2.67 cases per 10'000 inhabitants. In terms of population size, most proceedings were conducted in the canton of Obwalden (6.65 cases per 10'000 inhabitants), which also achieved positive results in absolute terms. The canton of Uri is also well above average with 4.31 proceedings per 10'000 inhabitants and has seen a considerable increase in case numbers (+87.5%). In relative terms, the least number of cases were assessed in the canton of Basel-Stadt (0.26 cases per 10'000 inhabitants), the canton of Ticino (0.48 cases per 10'000 inhabitants), the canton of Jura (0.82 cases per 10'000 inhabitants), the canton of Geneva (0.83 cases per 10'000 inhabitants), and the canton of Fribourg (0.89 cases per 10'000 inhabitants).
In 2017, 56.3 % of the recorded case material related to offenses committed against companion animals. Cases relating to farm animals made up a little over a quarter of the proceedings. Once again, dogs were the most commonly affected animals accounting for 790 cases. However, 14.8% of the proceedings concerned inadequate supervision of dogs by their owners and 15.8% of the cases related to a failure to provide a certificate of competence by dog owners.
As in previous years, the average fine imposed for violations of the animal welfare legislation was CHF 300. The cantons of Obwalden and Basel-Land issued the highest fines (average of CHF 750 in Obwalden and CHF 500 in Basel-Land). 14 proceedings relating to animal cruelty cases were sanctioned with monetary penalties – this type of penalty being more severe than a fine. No (conditional) prison sentences were enforced in 2017.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) lays down a penalty range for animal
welfare-related offenses of up to five years in prison or a monetary
penalty, and a fine of up to CHF 20'000 for misdemeanors. In view of the
animal suffering often associated with these acts, the overall
penalties for animal welfare-related offenses are still