Want to get rid of your goldfish? Swiss owners who have been flushing them down the toilet - still alive - must now find other methods since strict, new animal protection laws took effect today.

Instead, a fish must be first knocked out and then killed before its body can be disposed of, the law stipulates.

The new legislation spells out in exhaustive detail how all domestic animals are to be treated, whether they be pets, farm animals or destined for scientific experiments.

Wild animals are also covered by the law if they reside in zoos or circuses.

However, just like in George Orwell's satire, Animal Farm, some animals enjoy more "equal rights'' than others.

Not only are goldfish now afforded a more "dignified'' death than being dispatched round the S-bend, but it is now also forbidden for Swiss anglers to practise catch-and-release fishing or recreational catching only to throw the fish back in the water, or to use live fish as bait.

In the domestic sphere, common household pets such as budgerigars and hamsters can no longer be kept by themselves.

The same applies for more exotic breeds such as lamas, alpacas and yaks - admittedly not your average pet but a common feature in zoos.

Even sheep and goats must have at least "a visual contact with their fellows'', according to the new law.

Man's "best friend'', the faithful hound, comes in for special treatment as dog owners will be obliged by law to take special classes on how to raise Fido properly so he is less likely to bite.

And Swiss dog-owners wishing to "customise'' their pets as a fashion accessory will not be allowed to crop their tails or ears - nor "force them to have surgery to get droopy ears''.

One cannot help but wonder if the animals would really welcome all the provisions the lawmakers have generously bestowed upon them.

Pigs, for example, are often said to be happiest when rolling around in the mud - but now they have the legal right to a shower to freshen up.