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and over one million dogs that spend their lives in Italian Canili lager, most of them until their death. The big business of the dogs kennel holocaust
Dogs undernourished, ill, abandoned, jailed for life in miserable cages, lifeless. This is the picture of the dog shelter. From time to time it is heard on TV that the Forestale (forest ranger) arrived there and got one. Ok, but why? Because behind the Italy's stray dogs there is a filthy business. Indeed very filthy.
As usually happens with Italian stories, it all begins with the best intentions with a lot of hustle just to end up in a dark hole. With stray dogs for example, in 1991 it was decided to they wouldn't be killed anymore but taken to public shelters, in good shape and condition, spayed and neutered, waiting for foster homes or natural death.
We ended up, 16 years later with approximately 500 private shelters that house 230 thousand dogs (data from the Health Ministry) which are subsidized through Municipalities or Asl (Regional Health Departments)
Official data of the amount of business is around 500 million euros. A great deal of public money goes for stray dogs. And the worst must come.
A sad paradox: the more a dog is undernourished the more money the owner of the shelter gets. That means the dog eats poorly or nothing. The faster a dog dies the better is: the shelter owner gets 50/75 euros for each dumped carcass. The faster a new post is free, a new dog immediately comes to occupy it, even if it ends up being a puppy born only for that purpose: the shelter owner will add up 30/45 euros more. There are some shelters where half the dogs die every year and they are immediately "replaced".
The dog business is all about a fast turnover. The faster the turnover the more money they do. The last dog seized happened some days ago in Taranto. It was addressed by a division of the Forestale, the Nirda (investigative division of crimes towards the animals). A 45% of the dogs were suffering from infections; lots of them had tumors; almost all the males were not neutered. And so many were lame, "probably due to the pavement of the boxes, of earth and stones on the surface".
And more: broken wire fences, sharp ends, food stock room rat infested, no shelter from the elements provided. In a hole there were hundredes of dead animals. Veterinarians of course never around to care for the dogs. Now the owners are being investigated for several charges ranging from animal abuse and animals deprived of health care and illegal disposal of hazardous waste management. Fifteen days ago two dog breed facilities have been seized in Frosinone province. Other 700 dogs were found in miserable conditions: small and overcrowded cages all together puppies with adult dogs, helathy and ill. Poor food and same quantities for all. Brief cleaning just once a day with the pressure pump for some but the rest were living among feces. And they died.
Luciana Perfetti, Major of Sgurgola, has been named as law keeper: "According to the law the dog kennel - she says - had to be a transition point, something temporal and exceptional. It's a fact that here there staff assigned was not sufficient to takie care of the dogs". Indee, there was just one person for all those dogs.
All this cruelty and neglect can only be explained looking at the dog shelters business inside them. As Maria Cristina Salvucci, president of an animal rights group tells about the Lazio Onlus shelter: "In some structures dogs sleep on the concrete floor, eat dog croquettes that are dropped on the floor and share the cage with other 10 or more animals. In these conditions herd's laws are very hard and only the strongest end up eating and are destined to survive. At least until a stronger dog is caught and introduced to the group. Dogs being tore and their fights happen on a daily basis and are one of the main cause of death".
Until here those could be terrifying acts of neglect. In order to save the most possible, everything comes down to force tens of thousands of dogs to live miserable lives (and let them die). Even thouth there are some facts that makes us think and wonder how is it possible that in Puglia there are 61,000 imprisoned dogs and 142,000 registered living with families (almost one out of two), and that in Campania the dogs caught are 81,000 and 223,000 (same percentage) respectively and in Toscana there are only 4,000 and 357,000 (almost one out of 100?). Or that in Lombardia there are 2,600 imprisoned dogs and 413,000 living with families (almost one out of 200,000?). The answer is simple. Unfortunately in the South - says Jole Santelli who has submitted a bill for a reform of the system - a lot of these kennels are made out of organized crime and the Asl (local health authority) is not able to conduct inspections".
This is already a matter of police. Maria Rosaria Esposito is in charge of the Nucleo investigativo del Corpo Forestale (Investigations Department of the Italian State Forestry Corps). "We are carrying out a monitoring on a national basis of this underworld. Until now we have intervened a bit verywhere: in Lazio, Friuli, Veneto, Emilia, Toscana, Marche, Campania and Calabria. There are immense amounts of public money that ends up here. And we don't even know how many dog kennels operating within the national health service. Fortunately there are many volunteers who help us with a constant flow of complaints".