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“Absolutely no puppies and no male dogs,” I told my husband when we were considering what kind of dog to adopt from the local shelter. Yet, the moment a merlin-for-webreddish-brown Australian Kelpie looked at me from his shelter pen, I was hooked. We adopted him that night and kept his shelter name: Merlin.

Fast forward four years later, and my husband accepted a job at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. After a frenzy of organizing, packing and saying good-byes, the three of us moved to a small village called Vessy just outside the city of Geneva.

Dog ownership is fairly easy in Geneva, but there are various regulations that need to be followed. One of the first priorities for dog owners upon arrival from overseas is to have your dog seen by a local vet. This should happen within 10 days of arrival. At that visit, your dog will be issued a passport, given needed vaccines, his or her chip checked for compliance, and given a thorough exam.

The next step is to get a dog’s license (medallion), issued at the local Town Hall. Second version IMG_5025 puppy in ballsYou must bring proof of insurance (obtained through your home-owners insurance company), the dog’s passport listing current vaccines, proof of chipping and a certificate proving you took the mandatory dog-owner training. Rules change as to what kind of training is required, so check with your vet to find out what is current.

The Geneva area has marvelous walking paths through fields, forests, mountains and lakes. I usually keep my dog on a leash, just because he likes to chase cats, but in some places dogs can be off-leash. The Geneva city website lisParkts places where dogs are forbidden, must be on leash or can be off-leash: http://www.ville-geneve.ch/themes/securite-prevention/police-municipale/chiens/

Be careful if you walk by sheep – they are sometimes guarded by sheepdogs who do not like other dogs near their flocks. At the best you will be warned off by a bark, at the worst your dog could sustain injury.

If your dog has an after-hours medical emergency, be sure to contact the official Geneva vet emergency service through the phone number 0900 83 83 4. This service is offered Mon-Friday from 7pm to 8am, and Sat, Sun and holidays from 8am to 8am, and is provided by a rotating group of veterinary clinics. http://www.sgv.name/

Buy medicines for your dog through your vet, or through special veterinary pharmacies such as the Pharmacie Progres et Veterinaire or the Pharmacie de la Prairie.

If your vet recommends intensive medical care for your dog, he or she may refer you to one of the tertiary medical centers. I’ve used the one in Saint-Martin, France since it is only about a 40 minute drive from downtown Geneva. http://www.chvsm.com/index_en.php However, there are also tertiary centers located in Zurich and Bern.

Take a list of emergency medical terms in French with you – here’s one for humans, which will give you some basics: http://france.angloinfo.com/healthcare/medical-terminology/

In general, Geneva is pet-friendly, and is an easy place to have fun with your dog. And, in an emergency, all the needed services are available.


We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/