Rome has established a task force comprising veterinarians, police and legal services from the animal rights association Earth to save abandoned dogs and cats in the capital over the summer when owners often leave their pets to go on holiday.
The slogan of Rome's summer awareness campaign is “Dove si viaggia in due si viaggia anche in tre”, with posters appearing around the city in coming days. The association Earth has also released a moving video titled "Non abbandonare chi ti ama” featuring actress Euridice Axen.
Anyone can report cases of abandonment, maltreatment and also disturbances caused by dogs to the city's 24-hr call centre, tel. 060606. During the day, the dog pound at Muratella will help injured or abandoned dogs, while during the night or on public holidays, the city's veterinarian unit will deal with dogs in danger. In the case of cats however, if the animal is not injured or in need of care it will be not be considered as "stray" and will be left alone.
There are approximately 100,000 dogs abandoned annually in Italy (out of a total of 7 million dogs in ownership). Some 80 per cent of these dogs die within 20 days of living on the streets. This number peaks in June, July and August when about 600,000 dogs across Italy are abandoned or approximately 660 abandoned dogs per day, or 25 dogs every hour.
Abandoning animals is a crime and is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and fines ranging from €1,000 to €10,000.
Traffic authorities say that stray animals have contributed to about 40,000 accidents on the country's motorways over the last decade.