Summer holidays are a dream come true for Italians but a nightmare for their pets.

According to a report by the Zoomark market reserach unit into pet supplies and pet ownership at least 150,000 dogs and 200,000 cats will be dumped along the roadsides this year as owners set out on holiday.

Few of these animals survive, with 85 per cent of dogs perishing within 20 days, mostly killed along Italian roads. This phenomenon is also a serious hazard to motorists. In 2004, nearly 9,000 road accidents were caused by drivers hitting animals or swerving to avoid them.

Dogs and cats are not the only victims reptiles, insects, birds and turtles often suffer a similar fate.

The highest incidences of pet abandonment occur in Emilia Romagna, Campania, Calabria, Puglia, Sicilia and Lazio.

Every summer in Italy cats and dogs are abandoned despite intensive advertising campaigns, special TV programmes, tough new laws and hefty fines for those caught abandoning their pets.

However, according to Zoomark studies, over a third of Italian pet owners are now taking their furry friends on vacation with them, a quarter of Italians leave them at home in their neighbours care and a devoted 18 per cent declare that they give up on their summer vacation entirely out of love for their animals.

There are almost 13,5 million domestic animals in Italian homes, with nearly 44 per cent of families owning at least one pet.

For information on pet-friendly holiday accommodation, a list of pet pensioni in your area and useful advice on taking your four-legged friend on plane, train, car or boat with you call Pluto tel. 02 86463111 (Mon.-Fri. 10.30-14.00, 15.30-19.30). If you want to report an abandoned animal, please contact your local ASL health care centre.