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Swiss may give animals free lawyers

world Updated: Mar 06, 2010 01:46 IST

Swiss voters go to the polls on Sunday to consider expanding the rights of animals to get free legal representation.

At the moment, only one Swiss canton, Zurich, employs an attorney to represent abused animals in court. But if the voters agree with the 144,000 animal lovers who signed a petition to get the measure on the ballot, next week each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons will be required to appoint a lawyer to act as a public prosecutor for the region’s animals.

According to Antoine F. Goetschel, the attorney who has been spending part of his week representing the interests of Zurich’s animals since 2007, the new measure is necessary since other regions of the country are failing to enforce laws against animal cruelty. In a typical year, most of Goetschel’s 150 to 200 clients are mistreated dogs. Last month, though, he got a lot more attention than usual when he represented a dead fish in court.