Tomorrow the citizens of Switzerland will vote on whether to give all Swiss animals increased legal rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney. I’m not kidding! Switzerland currently gives its animals more protections that perhaps any other country in the world. If the referendum passes, all of Switzerland’s cantons (territorial divisions of the country similar to a city or county) will be required to pay for lawyers to represent animals. Proponents of the new law say that if a person who has been accused of mistreating an animal is able to hire an attorney then the abused animal (the victim) should also be represented by a lawyer. Does that mean that if a Swiss dog bites and injures a person, can the injured victim sue the dog who would have a court appointed lawyer and if the victim prevails in court, would the dog be liable for damages that would then be paid by the Swiss government?
Here are some eye-popping current requirements of Swiss animal law:
- Before acquiring a dog, the prospective owner(s) must take a course on dogs that lasts four hours.
- If an animal breed is social, i.e., needs companionship, the owner(s) of that type of animal must also have at least other animal of the same type so that the animals will have a companion. Animals that must have companions include fish, birds and the ever popular yaks.
- Fish aquariums and cages for birds are required to have not less than one side that is opaque so that the fish or bird feels safe.
- You cannot simply kill a sick fish by throwing it in the trash or flushing it down the toilet, you must whack it with a killing head shot or poison it in water and clove oil dissolved in alcohol.
- Perps found guilty of cruelty to an animal can be sent to the big house for as much as three years.
Let’s hope that Congress and the U.S. trial lawyers don’t hear about the Swiss animal laws because if they do, we’ll have similar laws here. Giving U.S. animals a right to a lawyer will put dollar signs in the eyes of the trial lawyers and give a lot of currently unemployed lawyers a job as animal rights specialists. I can also see a boom in much needed animal rights seminars, books, tapes and law blogs.
Update: By a huge margin, the Swiss voters rejected the animal rights law.