Europe

Swiss resort Zermatt ends St Bernard dog tourist photos

Saint Bernard dogs pose at the Great Saint Bernard mountain pass on June 4, 2009 after their arrival at the monastery for the summer season Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Swiss dogs are prized for their ability to smell and rescue stranded travellers

Tourists visiting the Matterhorn will soon be unable to pose for photos with the iconic St Bernard dog.

Authorities in the Swiss mountain resort town Zermatt have announced an end to the practice, following claims from animal rights activists that the canine models were not treated well.

The mayor says two local firms have agreed to stop providing dogs for the photos.

St Bernards are famed for their ability to rescue lost mountaineers.

However, companies offering tourists the chance to be snapped with the oversized dogs in front of the Matterhorn mountain have attracted criticism from the Swiss animal protection organisation (STS).

The group has long criticised the photo sessions as an "unworthy spectacle", and recently started proceedings against one of the operators, accusing it of breaking animal welfare rules.

Some dogs were being kept in "miserable conditions", it claimed.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn.

Ideas being mooted included offering photo shoots with an alphorn - a traditional herdsman's instrument - or with a person in a St Bernard costume.

The mayor told local paper Walliser Bote he expected the practice of offering photos with St Bernards would phased out by next winter.

The non-profit organisation that looks after the St Bernard breeding kennels in the Swiss Alps, the Barry Foundation, said it would be prepared to help find a new home for the animals from Zermatt if necessary.

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