Swiss Village to Dog Owners: Pay Your Taxes, Or Poochie Dies

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A sniffer dog gets close to the lens

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The taxman has never been a popular figure anywhere. But in the tiny Swiss village of Reconvilier, that functionary has assumed the even more detestable profile as the guy who’ll waste your dog if you don’t cough up what you owe.

Pierre-Alain Némitz said he’s been overwhelmed by insults and threats since the Reconvilier municipal council he heads informed residents in late December they risked seeing their dogs killed if they don’t pay the $48.50 annual tax the village levies per pooch.

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Némitz said the move seeks to force numerous deadbeat canine lovers to shell out withheld payments. In some cases, he claimed, that represents several years of arrears on numerous hounds—not an inconsequential sum for a burgh whose population includes 280 dogs among 2,245 people. Némitz said rubbing out Bowser would of course only be the last step among several less permanent measures to pressure owners to pay the fee. However, he notes a 1904 law allows officials to become Fido’s worst nightmare if it comes to that.

But if Némitz finds himself, um, dogged by hostile reaction to his efforts to extract outstanding taxes, his own language may explain a lot of that belligerence. After the regional paper Journal du Jura brought the new measure to the attention of a wider public Jan. 6, the Swiss daily Le Matin ran a piece three days later featuring pugnacious quotes from Némitz seeming to beg recalcitrant dog owners to make his day. “A lethal injection is sentimentality,” Némitz said, recalling measures the village took to eliminate dog-related problems 30 years ago. “We took them to a knacker’s yard, shot them in the head, and it was done…Euthanasia is for humans, and in our era, we’re not going to dilute the truth.”

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Neither are dog lovers, who’ve clearly registered their fury at the threat. Most reader reaction to Le Matin’s piece was outraged when not incredulous, with many messages asking why Reconvilier’s dogs should pay the maximum price for their masters’ tax disobedience. But the more direct—and personal—anger residents have showered down upon Némitz seemed to have taken a lot of the bite out of his bark in Le Matin’s Jan. 9 follow-up story. “This isn’t about exterminating all the little doggies!” he said, noting canine taxes can be paid in installments if need be, and promising the killing of dogs to be an extreme, unlikely scenario. “We don’t even have an extermination worker—our police forces aren’t even armed!”