Animal culture in Rome: Not just a city for cats

Rome is known as being a sanctuary city for stray cats, but the true extent of Rome’s love for animals has been evident in Rome’s legislation since 2005.

Roman Animal Rights Laws

While Italy has national laws for animal rights and enforces European legal standards of animal welfare, each region in the country is responsible for writing its own legislation for pets.

In 2005, Rome made history by enacting the strictest animal rights laws in the country. In a 59-point decree, the municipal government of Rome committed to protecting the rights and safety of all pets, from dogs to goldfish.

Under the decree, dog owners are required to walk their dogs at least once a day, and are prohibited from using choke and shock collars. Dog and cat owners are not allowed to declaw or clip their pet’s tail for cosmetic reasons. Pet stores cannot use pets in window displays. Goldfish must be kept in aquariums - round bowls are banned, as scientists found that they do not hold enough water to give a fish the oxygen it needs.

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While there was initially hesitation regarding how the new laws would be enforced, supporters saw it as an ethical stance for Rome and a monumental step in the right direction for pet awareness advocates.

At the time, animal rights activist Cristina Bedini told the LA Times: “We needed to send a strong message: Pets are not objects… We are saying that owning a pet is a joy, but it is also a duty. Responsible ownership is the only way to fight cruelty.”

Since 2005, Roman pet-awareness has steadily grown.

Roman commitment to ending animal cruelty

In 2010, there were several incidents of carriage horse mistreatment. Horse-drawn, or, botticelle, carriages are a common tourist attraction in Rome. 

They are often used by tourists who want to see the city and indulge in an interesting cultural experience. After several harrowing incidents of horses being injured or killed while working, the city of Rome passed a law to prevent horse exhaustion and mistreatment.

The law limited horse workshifts to 8 hours per day, banned up-hill climbs, and required carriage drivers to carry licenses for the purpose of tracking and mistreatment tracking.

In 2019, after continued complaints by Roman citizens and animal activists about horse treatment and more incidents of animal exhaustion and mistreatment, the Municipal Transportation Committee restricted botticelle to city parks.

The law was considered a huge win by animal rights and pet-awareness activists.

Legal Rights for Pets 

In 2017, a woman in Rome made international headlines for receiving paid-leave from her job to take care of her sick dog. Her paycheck only came through after a lengthy legal battle. 

She won when her lawyer cited an animal neglect law that fined negligent owners up to 10,000 euro for abandoning pets. It was a monumental win for animal rights activists, as it legally positioned Roman animals as family members.

According to the BBC, Gianluca Felicetti, the president of LAV, one of Italy’s most influential animal rights organizations, said of the case: “Now, those in the same situation will be able to cite this important precedent.”

Rome: A hotspot for animal rights organizations

LAV is based in Rome. As an animal rights organization, it has spearheaded countless animal rights laws, including laws against animal abuse and animal testing. Though it has 66 chapters all over the country, its headquarters are in Rome.

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