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Courses for new dog owners no longer mandatory in Switzerland

The Swiss National Council has voted to end the mandatory four-hour training courses for people who acquired a new dog, which had been law since 2008. The decision was taken after the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office's stated that, in the eight years since their introduction, there has been no decreased in incidents such as dog bites and attacks - and no noticeable difference between the behaviour of dog owners who had taken part to the course and that of those who hadn't.

The requirement was introduced in 2008, after a string of dog attacks. Anyone who acquired a new dog had to attend four hours of practical classes on obedience training, while a one-hour theory class was also compulsory for all first-time dog owners. A such law is however difficult to enforce and, according to the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, about 20 per cent of dog owners did not attend the training course. And all it takes for attacks to happen are very, very few irresponsible dog owners.

In the same year, Switzerland banned several breeds deemed to be "dangerous", such as the Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and even the English Bull Terrier. Those who already owned these dogs before the 2008 ban were obliged to attend 72 hours of obedience training classes with their dogs over a two-year period.

The fact that incidents have not decreased since the ban was enforced hardly comes as a surprise: despite four breeds having been banned in the UK since 1991 under the Dangerous Dogs Act, dog attacks are still a problem. According to the latest Battersea Dogs and Cats Home report on Breed Specific Legislation, NHS Hospital Admission statistics show there were 7,227 hospital admissions for dog bites last year - a 6 per cent increase year on year, and a 76 per cent increase over the last 10 years.