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A Note to Animal Lovers Visiting Italy

Many of you may have been to Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome, which is home to hundreds of cats who are fed and cared for by volunteers. All of the abandoned cats are spayed, neutered and vaccinated. Permanent homes are difficult to find. The Sanctuary has been under a threat of eviction and needs support to continue the difficult task of decreasing the feral cat population of Rome. If you venture south of Rome, it gets worse. Not just cats, but dogs too. Abandoned, homeless, diseased, starved, and abused. I was dining at a small outdoor cafe in southern Italy two weeks ago, and witnessed a small stray dog being visciously kicked in the face because he tried to be friendly with another dog who also wanted to be friendly, but his owner didn't approve. You will see a lot of stray dogs in southern Italy. You will also see a lot of cats. Sorrento, which is beautiful, wealthy, and highly touristed has many stray cats.
Venture down by the boat docks and you will see. All over Italy, you will see containers of pasta that some kind hearted people leave out for cats to eat. Unfortunately, pasta doesn't provide much protein. Unfortunately as well, too many cats go un-spayed and un-neutered and the cycle of neglect and misery continues. It is the same in northern Italy. The last time I visited the Cinque Terre (right before the devestating flood), I saw many stray animals. I can't imagine what happened to them after the flood, but it was our final day before going back to Rome and then home, and my traveling companion just wanted to sit in the piazza in Vernazza for most of the day and chill. That was okay. My lap was found by a sweet local feline (who had a cancer covering her nose and she could hardly breathe let alone eat), but I bought her some food which she appreciated and we spent that afternoon enjoying each other's company.

Posted by
6768 posts

It's heart breaking. Imagine how much worse it is in other parts of the world, in less enlightened cultures. In the US, and here in Napa and Marin, there's plenty of animal abuse. Breaks my heart. People that abuse animals are beyond evil.

Posted by
5541 posts

You've hit on the one thing that makes travel to other countries really hard sometimes. Not only in Italy, but also in Turkey I saw so many stray, homeless, ans sometimes in-bad-shape cats (hardly any dogs though because Muslims don't keep them very much. I have to note though the kindness of many people who fed the cats and seemed to coexist well with them). In general, no matter where, the poorer the area, the worse off the cats were. Nowhere that I know of is spaying and neutering widely practiced. I am hoping that as some places develop economically that greater personal wealth and education can enable more compassionate treatment of animals. I don't doubt that animals are loved as pets ( in areas where they're treated as true pets rather than creatures that coexist with humans), but population control is not a priority anywhere and you see lots of sad, unnecessary suffering. I almost cried in Turkey several times at what I saw - again, not that most people are unkind purposely (although I did see a few who were, I'm not trying to single out the place as unique). There are also different cultural "takes" on pet ownership - some people don't allow their pets in the house at all. Pets in many parts of the US are extremely lucky and well cared for.

Posted by
11233 posts

Somewhat related. Years ago a friend on mine moved to join her boyfriend in the Dominican Republic. .. She was horrified by how she saw animals treated, she started sneaking over to feed the neighbors animals etc.. but her bf wised her up, he told her that she was feeding the animals better then the people could afford to feed their children and that it was like shaming them.. NOW, I do not see that as an excuse in first world countries, like Italy for instance.. but just saying in some countries animals really are not pets.. its hard to watch .

Posted by
158 posts

Yes, Pat it is hard to watch. Last year my son and I came across a horse on the Amalfi coast on a rocky ledge about 15 feet above the ground, and about 20 feet at the widest point. A ledge. There was nothing that we could see that he could eat, so we started tearing all the weeds out of the ground in the surrounding area. He chowed down as fast as we could get the weeds to him. Who knows how long he was on that ledge but his ribs were protruding and he did not look well. I contacted a local animal rescue group but they said they were unable to locate him. There are actually animal rescue groups in Europe, but I don't know how vocal or effective they may be in these and similar situations.

Posted by
11945 posts

Italy's government isn't exactly famous for being helpful to it's human citizens, so I'm not surprised it's animals don't get the royal treatment either.

Posted by
2718 posts

The practice of leaving astray cats roam cities and towns in Southern Europe go back to middle ages when they were used as pest control devices to speak of. There is also very limited public services to neuter and spay cats.

Posted by
5541 posts

Hi Rachele, I wrote you a separate PM, but I wanted to add that, at the very least, when one sees cruel behavior overseas, one should not stand by in shock but should challenge the person who commits any heinous act against an innocent animal. I think some people take their behavior for granted and really haven't thought about it or been called out on it. I think any repugnant acts should be met with consternation, it shouldn't matter that you're from another country - this is a humanity and ethical issue that transcends boundaries and I don't see it in elitist terms (you're simply protecting an innocent animal and have the right to do so). With respect to the masses of homeless animals, the only answer is availability of vet clinics, subsidies, and education to maintain population control.