Lugano employs rescue dogs to help swimmers in distress
After seeing success in neighbouring Italy, "man’s best friend" has taken to the water in Switzerland to help swimmers in distress, authorities in Ticino have announced. The pilot project on Lake Lugano will test to see whether emergency response dogs can help reduce the number of accidents on local lakes and rivers.
Rescue dogs deployed on Lake Lugano, Switzerland
Speaking to SRF, the Lugano Life Saving Society and city authorities confirmed that dogs have become the latest recruits in the local emergency services. The dogs’ role is to raise awareness of swimming safety and provide a rapid response should a swimmer find themselves in difficulty.
They do this by jumping into the water, swimming to the person in distress and offering them floatation devices - some are even able to drag swimmers through the water using ropes and harnesses. The dogs are either transported aboard motorboats or on the front of standup paddleboards.
The pilot project, active on Lake Lugano in July and August, has proven a success. Patrick Tempobono, president of the Lugano Life Saving Society, told the broadcaster that "thanks to the presence of the dogs, we can reach people very quickly…we can draw their attention to the dangers on the water and thus raise awareness.”
Authorities hope to start dog training school in Switzerland
While there were no swimming fatalities in Lugano in 2022 or so far in 2023, Tempobono said that many bathers still underestimate the risks involved in swimming - especially near the mouths of rivers where currents and temperatures fluctuate. That is why they now employ dogs to provide another means of help to swimmers in distress, taking inspiration from Italy where the policy is already in place on a number of public beaches.
To get them ready, each dog has to go through months of teamwork and rescue training in Milan before joining the Swiss service. However, with the success of the programme, Tempobono said that their goal “is to set up our own training centre for water dogs next year.”