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-   -   Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice (https://www.englishforum.ch/pet-corner/299182-dog-adoption-thread-agencies-adopt-advice.html)

FindingMyFeet 18.07.2020 08:33

Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
We're interested in adopting a dog from a rescue home, one that's been rescued either in Switzerland or another country.

Recommendations of the best rescue centres to use would be great. We're looking for a rescue centre that let's us meet and even foster a dog before we adopt, so we can check everything is OK with the kids. Also a centre that helps with the transition and checking that we're the right family for the dog and visa versa.

Advise on, and links for, good rescue centres would be great. Shared experience or advice on the process of choosing and adopting dogs that are not yet in Switzerland. Also warnings about any scams or anything that might be something to look for and guide on both up front and hidden costs.

Admins, maybe this could even become a sticky thread as a repository on the topic? :msncool:

Island Monkey 18.07.2020 10:09

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
One thing I’ve found, is that in Switzerland, there are not many rescue dogs available (a good thing I guess)..... especially compared to the UK. Try searching Tierschutz in your local area.

meloncollie 18.07.2020 15:45

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
Warning: Long rambling post ahead. Maybe grab a cuppa first...

The go-to thread for newbies looking to adopt a dog in Switzerland is here:

Yes, it's an old thread but little has changed with the exception of two things:

First, the Tierdatenbank no longer exists, and second, the federal requirement to take the SKN classes has been abolished... although everyone involved in dog welfare still very strongly encourages potential adopters to take classes, more on that later.

So please take a moment to read through that thread, as you will likely find many questions answered there.

That said:

I see you come from the UK. From what I know working with rescue community colleagues there, the homeless dog situation, and the process of adoption, can be quite different to what you might experience here. So just a heads-up.

As Island Monkey says, there are nowheres near the number of homeless dogs here as in other countries. The last decade or so saw significant improvement in dog owners understanding their responsibilities, resulting in significant drop in the numbers of dogs needing new homes.

(Sadly, with the abolition of the mandatory courses we have started to see poor ownership behavior again... fortunately that has not yet led to a marked increase in homelessness, but I do worry...)

At present, many of the dogs in Swiss shelters come from other countries, brought in by rescue organizations here partnering with rescue groups in those countries where the dogs stand little chance of being adopted.

Because the numbers are low(ish) here, do be aware that you may have 'competition' for the types of dogs everyone wants - young, small, cute, fluffy, well-mannered, no baggage. While dogs like these do come into rescue, when they do the phones might ring off the hook with potential adopters. You - and your family including the children - have to put your best foot forward during the assessment if you wish to be chosen.

If you are able to take on an older or senior dog, or a dog with medical needs, a dog with behavioral issues, a listed breed or a a large 'not cuddly looking' type of dog, or a dog with some past baggage, you will likely find you have less competition. You do, however, need to demonstrate that you can meet this dog's special needs.

Spend some time reading not only the thread linked, but also various Tierheim adoption pages and think then about how you would initially approach the rescue in order to be considered as a potential adopter.

One thing I will say, bluntly: Adoption is not about what is best for you but about what is best for the dog. Please understand that your family might not be considered suitable for every dog who piques your interest. So to avoid disappointment with your children, it's often best to keep the search between the adults until you pass the initial assessment and are invited to meet the dog - and even then understand that nothing is certain until the adoption papers are signed. When small children are involved managing their expectations is important.


In the other thread, many posters have detailed the processes we have gone through in adopting here so I won't repeat that here.

Here are the Tierheim I have adopted from in Switzerland:

SPA Fribourg:

Tierheim Surber:

Tierschutzbund Basel:


Tierheim Root:

(Some of these have been re-organized since I adopted from them, so management and practices might not be the same.)

Other Tierheime I admire:

Tierschutz Beider Basel:

Animal Happy End:

Tierheim Pfötli:

New Graceland (focuses on greyhounds, but have other dogs in as well):

Coeur de Galgo (also focuses on sight hounds but rescues others dogs as well):

Oasis des Veterans (focuses on older dogs):

(You can see that some of these have few dogs at present.)

There are many other groups, likely equally worthy. A not fully inclusive list, by canton, can be found here:

As IM says, simply start googling things like Tierheim, Refuge, (Breed) In Not, etc. Newer rescue groups and private groups are likely not included in the above lists.

There is also a commercial platform, Tieronline, that lists dogs up for adoption. Be aware that even when you select 'Hund in der Schweiz', some of the dogs listed will still be in their home countries, so you are looking at an international adoption. Which is probably another thread.

A word of caution:

Switzerland is a target for the Dark Side - and these unscrupulous barstewards have learned that they can make as much money posing as rescues as they can pretending to be breeders. This despicable trade is active here because there are a lot of very wealthy and very naive people in Switzerland. These fake rescues are often the same people who abuse the dogs - and then use the story of that abuse to tug at naive heartstrings. Do not, under any circumstances, go this route! Doing so simply condenms more dogs to lives of misery and/or a horrific death.

There are many threads discussing how to spot the Dark Side - please take a browse through the Pets Corner. And please, come back with questions if you think you might have come upon one of these bad actors.

There are also a number of 'unserious' rescues here, groups that are not ill-intended, but who may have jumped into rescue work without really knowing what they are doing, sometimes to the detriment of the animals and adopters. Again, come back with questions if you are concerned about the group you are dealing with.

Due diligence is a must when wading into animal welfare waters. It breaks my heart to say this, but that is where we are today.


And a word about fostering:

Again the emphasis that adoption is all about what is right for the dog:

Fostering is about getting a dog ready to live in the human world again, about assessing the dog, about healing the dog if needed. Fostering is fundamentally not a 'try before you buy' for you and the family.

Yes, some rescues allow a trial placement for a limited time. But please be aware that placing and then returning a dog (rinse and repeat) can be emotionally damaging to some dogs, a trial period is not to be entered into lightly - for the dog's sake.

Now - many dogs can be 'shut down' due to the trauma of their situations. Behavior in kennels might be different than behavior in your home. With all my dogs, although I had done a thorough an assessment as I could, I still mentally plan on a period of some 4-6 months before they fully settle in well enough to show their true characters. One has to understand that there may well be surprises in store.

If you are truly unsure about any aspect of an adoption, I would counsel waiting until you are in a place to make a commitment - especially with small children.

But if you are experienced dog owners, can provide the right environment, and if your children are old enough to meet the rescue's (and dog's!) requirements, you could offer your services as a foster family. Just be aware that fostering, while one of the most rewarding things you can do, can be bitter-sweet. My heart broke a little every time when one of my fosters eventually went on to his forever family - and I'm a level headed adult. Fostering can be hard on children.

I believe Animal Happy End uses foster families, btw.


Do be aware that every rescue group works to it's own policies and principles. One cannot generalize.


If you are new to dog ownership in Switzerland, and certainly if you are first time dog owners, there is a set of courses you should consider taking, the National Hundehalter Brevet. There are two classes, a theory class that is best taken before getting your dog, and a practical class. These classes are voluntary, and highly recommended.


EF member CherryTree is a dog trainer who offers these courses - you should contact her for more information.


Be aware that dog ownership is regulated at both the federal and cantonal levels. Dog control is the competency of the cantons - which means the rules and regs vary by canton. So while there no longer is a federal course mandate, some of the cantons do require classes be taken for certain classes of dogs.

You can read summaries of the various cantonal dog laws on the Tier Im Recht website, here:

When I am assessing a potential adoptive family, I ask them about their cantonal dog law. Just a hint. ;)


As you probably have read on other threads, all dogs must be registered. You will need a vet to do this, so do add finding a vet to your to-do list if you don't have one already. I bring this up because again, it's something many rescues might expect you to have already researched.


Wishing you and your family all the best in this search

Island Monkey 18.07.2020 16:06

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice

Originally Posted by meloncollie (Post 3199975)
the federal requirement to take the SKN classes has been abolished

Bit off topic....

I have just very randomly discovered that a course is now obligatory in Wallis, for new dogs owners, from the beginning of this year. https://www.vs.ch/de/web/scav/veteri...sen/hundewesen

What I'm not sure of, "new dog owners" does that mean if you get a new dog (and you haven't done it) or if it is your first dog?

meloncollie 18.07.2020 16:53

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice

Originally Posted by Island Monkey (Post 3199979)
Bit off topic....

I have just very randomly discovered that a course is now obligatory in Wallis, for new dogs owners, from the beginning of this year. https://www.vs.ch/de/web/scav/veteri...sen/hundewesen

What I'm not sure of, "new dog owners" does that mean if you get a new dog (and you haven't done it) or if it is your first dog?

Reading the VD Gesetz text:

Jeder Hundehalter mit Wohnsitz im Wallis, der älter als 16 Jahre ist und nicht nachweisen kann, dass er früher bereits einen Hund gehalten hat, ist zum Kursbesuch verpflichtet.

I would interpret that as anyone resident in Wallis over the age of 16 who cannot prove that he or she has previously owned a dog.

If you have previously owned a dog in Switzerland the proof should be easy: registration in AMICUS.

If one has owned a dog in another country but not in Switzerland I'd write the VD Veterinäramt for a ruling of whether or not one is required to do the course.

The course has to be taken within the first 12 months of owning the dog, however not before the dog is 8 months old.

FYI, there are exceptions to the course requirement:

Art. 5
Die Halter folgender Hunde sind nicht der Kurspflicht unterstellt:
a) Diensthunde von Polizei und Zollverwaltung;
b) Begleithunde von Blinden und Gehörlosen sowie Hilfshunde von Personen mit Behinderung, die durch den Verein "Le Copain" oder eine andere vom kantonalen Veterinäramt anerkannte Stelle ausgebildet wurden;
c) Hunde, die weniger als acht Monate alt sind;
d) Hunde von Personen, deren Aufenthalt im Kanton weniger als drei Monate beträgt;
e) Personen mit dem Nationalen Hundehalter Brevet NHB/BPC.

Also, even those who have previously owned a dog might be required to take the course if so ordered by the Veterinäramt.

You bring up a very good point, IM:

Dog law is a moving target. We owners need to keep an eye on our canton's relevant dog law pages. It's also a good idea to check the TIR website now and again. Things can, and do, change.

FindingMyFeet 18.07.2020 21:02

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice

Originally Posted by meloncollie (Post 3199975)
Warning: Long rambling post ahead. Maybe grab a cuppa first...
Wishing you and your family all the best in this search

That's a fantastic post! Thank you so much for all the information @meloncollie

We weren't aware of the Dark Side, but instinctively knew the importance of working with a reputable agency. That's one of the biggest reasons to ask here, and why googling made me a little nervous.

How does it work generally when the dogs listed are in other countries? Does everyone interested register their interest and then the process starts when they arrive in Switzerland? Or are people somehow expected to make a commitment to adopt before they bring the dog here? It must be cheaper to care for them elsewhere, so presumably they only import them once they know they will find a home.

You're right, I'm British, and it's hard to picture how it works compared with a system that has so many animals needing cared for.

meloncollie 19.07.2020 09:31

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
Again the caveat that each rescue group works to it's own policies and principles - protocol and procedures followed by one might be quite different from another:

I have adopted dogs from rescues in Spain, France, Germany and Italy during my time in Switzerland. In each case I was working directly with a local group. For what it's worth, here's how I went about it:

I saw a dossier on the dog on the rescue's website, or found him via personal contacts in my breeds' welfare community.

When I see a dog who piques my interest, and whose profile I believe will fit with my resident dogs, and most importantly whose needs I can meet I then start with a letter to the rescue group.

In that letter I introduce myself, and give a brief summary of my experience, highlighting how my experience could help meet the dog's needs. I give a description of our living situation, and because I have resident dogs, a very brief summary of their characters as well. This last is so that the rescue has an idea of whether they think the dog would be happy living with mine. I then ask if someone would be available to speak with me.

Shelter staff are generally very busy caring for the dogs, so IME it's best to set an appointment to talk rather than trying to catch people on the fly. But follow the contact details of the individual group, usually given on their site.

The letter is all about making a good impression.

Assuming the rescue think I might be a good match with the dog, we then speak on the phone, going over in greater detail what I can offer the dog, how I can meet his needs, my ideas of dog ownership, etc.

Assuming the phone conversation is favourable, I am then invited to meet the dog.

NOW - this is something I feel very strongly about: I always, without exception, travel to the country where the dog is to meet him in person, and to meet the staff. I bring my own dogs along as well, as I have to assess group compatibility. I would never, ever adopt 'sight unseen' as that would not be appropriate with my resident pack. With one of mine who was in a Spainish killing station (yes, that is what those hellholes are) I went down for a week. Several others of mine were not far over the border from Switzerland so I made multiple trips to meet each. I take as much time as needed, be it two visits or ten, to get to know the dog, the shelter, and they us. (I do the same with dogs I adopt locally as well.) I think I described the assessment process on that other thread.

Some rescues do indeed allow adoptions from other countries where you first adopt the dog officially and then meet the dog when he arrives. While this would never work for me, it works for others - providing the adopter can make the firm commitment to the dog upfront, and is willing to roll with the punches as he gets to know the dog.

When you go this route be sure you are working with a reputable rescue, and be guided by their assessment of the dog and the fit with your family. And put those rose coloured glasses firmly away. Ask questions, talk about the 'what ifs', talk about your deal breakers as well as the positives. Better a protracted process than a failed adoption.

One of the reasons some groups approach adoption into Switzerland this way is that the easiest way for a dog to enter Switzerland is to be imported by the owner - that's you, the new adopter. A rescue group in another country without a Swiss presence could not simply send a dog here under their egis. If a dog is sent to Switzerland by any means other than import by the owner it falls under commercial import regulations.

By the way, it is explicitly forbidden for a private person to import a dog to Switzerland and then give him to another party. Which is why when you definitively import a new adoptee you really do have to be committed.

It can be a mess when an international adoption fails, as some rescues in other countries don't have the resources to offer back up across borders. And if there is a dispute, international legalities can get sticky. And it is wholly unfair to the dog.

Are you an experienced dog owner? How old are your children? How complicated would you say your lifestyle/family needs/expectations of the dog might be?

If you are not only not an experienced dog owner but also not experienced with international adoption I would advise you to work with a Swiss-based group, where you can visit the dog several times to ensure the fit is a good one, where you can avoid some of the international logistics and red tape.

One of the groups I mentioned in the other post, Animal Happy End, has some of their dogs in foster homes here in Switzerland as well as still in their home countries. If you are not experienced, I would suggest concentrating on the dogs who are already in Switzerland. Some other rescues bring dogs to their stations here as well. Just be sure you understand where the dog currently is before you go losing your heart.

If you are experienced, if your family and expectations are uncomplicated, if the possibility of a surprise or two doesn't faze you, and if you can make the commitment upfront international adoption might work. There are numerous stories of EFers who have adopted from abroad, with happy results all around. Hopefully some of those posters will pop in with their experiences.


By the way, some trainers here in Switzerland offer to advise owners who are considering a new addition, helping with assessment, etc. If you are not experienced, that might be a resource for you. Look for 'Beratung vor Kauf'.


Another comment: Make sure you fully understand the adoption contract, especially the clause as to who retains ownership.


I've spend decades in dog rescue, both as a volunteer and as an adopter. And while I do urge all who can to consider adoption, I've also come to the realisation that the way to beat the (worldwide) homeless crisis has less to do with promoting adoption than with ensuring that dogs do not end up losing their homes in the first place. That means owner education, finding the dog who fits your family best, and making a commitment to that dog for his natural lifetime, no matter what happens in yours.

If you can find your dog in a rescue, wonderful. But if your family situation is such that you think a puppy from am ethical, reputable breeder is the right choice for you, that is also good. The important thing is that your new four footed friend is considered, hand on heart, a forever member of the family.


Again, wishing you all the best.

smileygreebins 19.07.2020 10:43

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
An additional note for the OP.

Compared to the UK, adopting a dog from a rescue shelter here is comparatively expensive. You will see part of the reason for that when you visit a shelter - rescue animals live in pens and facilities that are......luxurious compared to many of the shelters in the UK. Staff are also paid, rather than purely voluntary.

We've been adopting here from the tierheim outside of Luzern. http://www.tierschutz-luzern.ch/de Our fees included all medical pre-checks and needles for the animal. And as Meloncollie has noted, "competition" for the animals is usually high. I was surprised to find that ownership of the animal remains with the shelter forever but it has caused no issues for us whatsoever (just a clever clause that enables them to legally remove animals from people who haven't cared for them properly).

When I adopted a couple of kitties in the UK from a reputable shelter, I was still appalled at how many animals were caged together.....the shelter staff were prepared to give me the cats for free, and were clearly overwhelmed when I gave them £100 as a donation - they were desperate for people to take more animals, and whilst I had a "token" home visit it really felt like a "tick the box" exercise, and I could have taken 20 kitties and no one would have blinked. I had a similar situation in Australia, and in France.

Here when I adopted kitties, we didn't get the home visit, but I had to be interviewed, provide photos, AND the contract to "lease" the cats was extensive. From memory, it cost me CHF180 per cat, not negotiable. There was a seperate room for kittens that had about 30 scampering about, and we managed to find the only one (or she found us) that wasn't already vouched for. 6 other families arrived after us also seeking a kitten, and had to go on a "wait list". Our other adoptions from Switzerland had known health/age issues - so we didn't have competition for securing them - vet fees in Switzerland are expensive, so that's a deterrent for many!

I don't know in the case of dogs, but what I did find in the animal shelters, was a good number of older cats that needing adopting - their owners had gone into aged care homes, and weren't allowed to take their pets with them (don't get me started on that topic!) - which meant we had our pick of gorgeous old boys and girls who were well trained already and just wanting more love.

In our Kanton, we had to pay an additional fee annually to the Germeinde for our dog - covers the supply of poo bags I guess and it was nominal, about CHF30 from memory.

I hope this doesn't put you off adopting a furry family member. But definitely understand that its very different here than to the UK. BTW. We found "importing" our adopted kitties from the UK and France to be a very easy process. Same for our English doggy. That said, we've also been very lucky that our furry children have all been excellent car travellers....

Finally. With no vested interest, we found that the loyalty shopper program with Qualipet was excellent and they regularly have massive savings on pet food so if you can afford to buy in bulk, and keep a watch for those savings, you can save a small fortune!

smileygreebins 19.07.2020 11:00

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
Oh, and just to really highlight the difference between our experience of animal shelters here and in other countries.

When our doggy died recently, I rang around to 4 nearby animal shelters. Offering to donate and deliver to them, 6 months of Swiss brand high quality food and snacks (still in cans and packets, unopened), a carton of mainstream supplements and medicines (unopened), all of her winter season doggy jackets (washed, excellent condition), a couple of huge cartons worth of toys (all washed, many still new with tags on), and all of her bedding (washed, excellent condition) and a massive pile of towels and dog shampoos. (we have a huge empty cupboard now - we clearly spoilt that girl!)

The responses:
1. our animals have enough here, but thanks
2. we only like a certain type of food, toy and bedding for our shelter dogs, and we've got enough, thanks
3. we've got a wait list of people wanting to donate, would you like to go on that list?
4. bring it over and we'll see if we like any of it, but we're busy right now with our renovations to the dog shelter area (costing CHF 200,000 I kid you not!!!!!!)

The result - I donated some of the supplements to an EF'er, then I called the shelter we've used before in France, who were overjoyed, and will send someone to meet us and collect it all when we travel into the country next week!

Medea Fleecestealer 19.07.2020 12:15

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
Re smileygreebins comment on contracts here's the one from SPA Fribourg to peruse.


meloncollie 19.07.2020 16:27

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
An FYI, as SmileyGreebins has mentioned shelters in France (and the much greater need there), SecondChance is a platform collating homeless animals throughout France:


You would apply to the individual rescue responsible for the dog, travel to meet the dog, and if successful, adopt the dog and import him yourself.

Medea Fleecestealer 19.07.2020 18:21

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
If you do look abroad make sure you understand the rules. Also see the link about docked and cropped dogs.


finnella 20.07.2020 14:50

Re: Dog Adoption Thread - agencies to adopt from and advice
I've inquired into fostering for a few different rescue organizations, and so far, haven't had any requests to foster. But I assume it is because we have 2 younger kids (6 and 3 years) and/or I ask more questions...which they didn't want to/couldn't respond to (eg. how they evaluated kid-friendliness? how they assessed which dogs to rescue from shelters? policy on biting dogs? etc...).

For the OP: if you do have young(er) children at home, it probably is that much more critical to work with a reputable rescue organization to ensure a good match with the kids. Ideally, you want a dog that actually wants to be around kids (not just tolerates them).

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