More Italians Than Ever Truly Value Their Cats and Dogs

My cats and dogs in Italy

My dogs and cat – Zsazsa, Jimmy and the much-loved Maia

As someone who openly acknowledges my animals are child substitutes, it’s interesting to find out that I’m not alone!

Here in Italy, recent research carried out by AstraRicherche for leading Italian petfood company AgrasDelic has shown that a growing number of Italians consider their cat or dog not just a pet but more like a member of the family.

Sixty eight percent of Italians say they know someone who thinks their four-legged friend is as important as their child or even more so.

President of the petfood company Enrico Finzi says: ‘companion animals have a far greater level of interaction and emotional involvement in people’s daily lives than in the past… The animal gives the human affection and psychological support. It’s a relationship that many people these days grow to rely on and would find it hard to do without.’

There is also growing interest in the health and well-being of Italian cats and dogs, according to the research.

Forty eight percent of owners demand the same high standards of their pet’s food as they do of their own. ‘It’s a basic sign of affection. People want their cat or dog to experience the same happiness and satisfaction as they do from eating good food,’ explains Finzi. ‘At the same time the product must not harm the animal’s health but instead help maintain its psychological and physiological wellbeing.’

Clearly there’s a long way to go until all dogs and cats in Italy are treated with the love and respect they deserve. There are still too many in council pounds or treated badly and abandoned, as I know from all the people who contact me every year via this site having found a starving maltreated animal that no-one seems to be bothered about.

This research demonstrates an increasing level of affection, sensitivity and care towards pet animals in Italy and is a hugely positive sign. The more people who lead by example the better.

How Many Pets Are There in Italy?

pets in Italy

ZsaZsa, Maia and Jimmy

I just had an email from someone asking me how many pets there are in Italy. This intrigued me as although I’ve recently posted about the Italian pet owning statistics published earlier this year, I didn’t recall reading any pet numbers in that.

Anyway, I did a quick google search in Italian and there appear to be between 44 million and 45 million domestic pets in Italy. (Source Eurispes, 2012)

As the population of Italy is around 60 million, that means many families have more than one pet, because the survey showed 55 percent of Italian families own at least one pet.

Pet Ownership in Italy on Increase Despite Crisis

According to a 2013 survey by Eurispes, the Italian Institute of Political,Social and Economic Studies, the country’s economic woes have not taken their toll on the nation’s pets. In actual fact there has been a rise in pet ownership. Over 55 percent of Italian families now have at least one pet, up 13 percent on last year.

Dogs remain the most popular pet with over 55 percent of Italian pet owners having at least one, while cats insinuate their way into second place, as only cats can, at just under 50 percent.

Of course it’s one thing owning a pet and quite another to take good care of it, but it appears that Italian pet lovers are prepared to splash their cash on their four-legged friends. While just under half
pet owners spend at least 30 euros a month on them, a third spend between 30 and 50 euros a month and 13 percent between 51 and 100 euros. Just under five percent spent up to 200 euros a month, 0.7 percent spent up to 300 euros and 1.14 percent over 300 euros. Wow – would like to be a fly on that pet’s wall!

If my pet food bill is any thing to go by this is a large proportion of the budget. Over half of Italian pet owners manage on under 30 euros a month. About a third spend 50 euros a month and 15 percent spend up to 300 euros on food per month.

Vet fees and medicines have a relatively low annual spend, perhaps this reflects on lower vet fees, or that people just take them less – another consideration is the lack of insurance policies here to cover
vet fees. Every year the majority (63 percent) of pet owners spend less than 100 euros on vets fees and medicine, while just under a quarter spend up to 200 euros. Some 7 percent spend up to 300 euro
and an unfortunate 4.2 percent even more than that.

When it comes to grooming and toiletry stuff, most owners do it themselves (65 percent) while 34 percent call in the specialists. Almost a fifth pay up to 50 euro a year, but for a little over 2 percent of owners the bill can be more than 150 euro. What are they doing, I wonder? Giving Fido manicures?

Looking at accessories (collars, coats and so on) just under 35 percent spend up to 50 euro a year, the majority (55 percent) less than that, but there are also those who spend up to 150 euros a year.






Italy’s First Pet and Human Cemetery Planned near Pisa, Tuscany

The little hilltown area of Fauglia near Pisa has just announced it is looking into creating the first mixed pet and human cemetery in Italy.

Although still in its very early stages and looking for funding, the Comune is very serious about the project and believed there will be a strong demand from owners who wish to be laid to rest with their faithful animal companions.

Land is certainly not an issue as the Comune has seven hectares available which has been donated by a local citizen.

Personally, I think it’s a wonderful idea. What do you think?

Background to the Scandalous Canili Lager Dog Pounds

Italy has approximately 600,000 stray dogs, a quarter of which are in dog pounds, according to LAV, Italy’s anti-vivisection league. There are 1144 dog pounds and around 500 of those are known as canili lager, a term to strike fear into the heart of any poor dog unlucky enough to end up in one.

In 1991 Italy introduced a no-kill law for strays. They decided that every stray that was rounded up should be should be housed, vaccinated, fed and eventually re-homed. The public canili sanitari couldn’t cope and so funds were made available for private kennels to take on some of the burden. The owners of these private kennels – canili lager – would be paid per head. It seemed a good idea at the time.

 But what happened became a national disgrace. Unscrupulous people wanting to make as much money as they could crammed as many dogs as they could into inadequate kennels. It was against their interests to re-home them, because then they would lose their per capita income, so they kept their presence quiet. They were Italy’s invisible and forgotten dogs. Many have spent their entire miserable lives in filthy conditions, attacked or half starved never seeing a blade of grass or knowing what it was like to be taken for a walk or played with. The well-intentioned law effectively backfired spectacularly, leading to a nightmare existence for hundreds of thousands of dogs.

Recently, in a large part thanks to modern technology, things have taken a turn for the better. The rise of the Internet and the work of a network of volunteer animal lovers throughout Italy has meant there is now hope for the ‘invisible dogs’. People began tracking down canili lager, which were often hidden or well-guarded, insisting on visiting the dogs and taking photos on their mobile phones, which they then posted online. Slowly these internet appeals have led to some dogs finding new homes. And as more canili lager became exposed, the owners reluctantly had to agree to the volunteers visiting the inmates regularly, and taking them out, even for just 20 minutes exercise a month – not much but better than nothing.

Now the Ministry of Health have also vowed to tackle the problem. Below is an aritcle that has been forwarded to me in Italian by an animal organization, so I translated it and thought I would post it. I think they are a bit hard on the internet adoptions at the end, but everyone has a right to an opinion and I know from my own experience that taking on a rescue dog, while extremely rewarding, is not easy.

The Ministry of Health ‘A-Team
Against the Canili Lager

Original article on (translated by Fiona Tankard)

The Ministry of Health, under the direction of under secretary  Francesca Martini, has formed a task force, comprising twelve vets and four legal and administrative personnel, whose job it is to discover and eradicate the terrible canili lager and to resolve the issue of strays.

A ‘canile lager’ is a type of shelter which does not respect even the minimum hygiene regulations, where love for the animals it houses does not exist and where there is not the
slightest shred of respect for the poor unfortunate creatures who end up within its hellish walls.  Starving, sick, often badly treated, beaten or even killed by people for whom an animal means less then the dirt on their shoes.

The life expectancy of these dogs is very short and what life they do have incarcerated in these terrible places is hard. It is to stamp out this scourge on society that Ms Martini has put together the team who will work together with the Carabinieri and its specialist Nas unit.

The A-Team” (Animal Team), as they might be called, will inspect the management of these canili and undertake follow up visits, keeping them under close scrutiny. They will be able to intervene directly in the case of emergencies and will also be responsible for putting together a PR team whose job will be to communicate with the public and the  owners of these canili, informing them of  the various laws that cover animal welfare. This is something that should be obvious, part of being a human being, but so often it isn’t the case.

This is what animal lover and “animal rights warrior” Martini says: “We have started an innovative and reforming movement at the Ministry of Health at zero cost. In a federal country like ours, you have to have ministries that respond to real and urgent needs. This task force represents a fundamental, concrete and active method of tackling the problems of strays and the mistreatment of animals in Italy. They will work together with the carabinieri and Nas and will have at their disposal all the resources they need to protect and defend animals in our country”

Cosimo Piccinno, chief of Nas says: “This initiative is designed to put a stop to the degradation, maltreatment and violence against animals that is all too common and widespread
in a civilised country like
Italy. Since July 2008 we have carried out between 1200 to 1500 inspections of kennels, dog pounds, breeders, pet shops, training centres and grooming parlours. Around 30% of these ended up being officially reported to the relevant legal authorities. Our objective and the objective of the task force is to end the maltreatment of cats and dogs in Italy.

Thirty percent represents one in three, and it’s not only dog pounds and shelters that have been reported to the legal authorities. Who decides who should be allowed to run an
establishment like this? Who in the town council decides, for example, that a person is fit to run a public dog shelter?  . And isn’t that person also responsible for  what the inspectors have found in their work of the last couple of years?
And why hasn’t anyone ever checked private shelters? Now anyone – volunteer, association or private citizen can contact the Ministry of Health to report cases of maltreatment or violation of the laws governing the humane treatment of animals by sending an email to :

There are an estimated 700 000 stray dogs (probably more), of which only a small percentage are rescued from all kinds of cruelty by animal associations and individual  volunteers. They are put in kennels, cared for on the streets or put up for adoption. And this too is another problem which I will dedicate brief space to here. Because the
phenomenon of “24 hour adoption” is, without doubt, another grave problem for our society. The ease with which dogs and cats are adopted is shocking.  Sometimes the fault is that of the volunteers and their less than rigorous checking procedures, but more often than not, the fault lies with the family who wants a dog and in their enthusiasm, fails to realise that they are taking on a potential problem. They have little experience of coping with a rescue dog and resulting in terrible stress for the volunteers and, worse, for the poor animals involved who were oh-so-nearly adopted.

Let’s hope that the reduction, if not total destruction, of the canili lager will result in an increasing number of animals being sterilized, leading to fewer cats and dogs. Let’s also hope for better controlled and more rigorous adoption procedures. And finally let’s hope that all those animals who have tried to give their love and affection to people who just don’t understand and will never understand, finally get some happiness too.


Link to the article in Italian: