Italian Cities Begin Regulating Pet Owners

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Last Tuesday, Rome’s city council passed new by-laws which it said were designed to protect pets against cruel treatment by pet owners. Among other things, the new rules ban keeping fish in "classic spherical fish bowls," and require dog owners to walk their dogs regularly or else face substantial fines.

The official who sponsored the new rules, Monica Cirinna, said "It’s good to do whatever we can for our animals who in exchange for a little love fill our existence with their attention." Fair enough, although I don’t recall ever getting any attention from a fish, unless it was trying to eat me. And why fish were being protected from spherical fish bowls was not entirely clear anyway. The newspaper Il Messaggero reported that spherical fish bowls cause fish to go blind. Reuters does not appear to have been able to substantiate the fish-blinding allegations, saying instead that "many fish experts" say round bowls provide insufficient oxygen for fish, which sounds equally bogus to me. City officials would not comment on the reason for the goldfish-bowl ban.

The rules also prohibit giving animals as prizes and clipping a dog’s tail for aesthetic reasons, as well as providing "legal recognition" for cat lovers who feed the legions of stray cats in Rome. (The report did not say what kind of recognition was provided.) Cirinna defended the new rules, saying that "[t]he civilization of a city can [] be measured by this." I guess that is probably true, in a sense.

In April, the northern city of Turin passed a law that allowed pet owners to be fined 500 euros if they do not walk their dogs at least three times a day. Many Italian cities have apparently been passing pet rules recently, "many of which [according to Reuters] will be difficult to police."