The Italian Almanac

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Black List Abolished

Italy is to scrap its blacklist of dangerous dogs, replacing it with a law making owners more responsible for their pet`s training and behaviour, Health Undersecretary Francesca Martini said. The new law, which will come into effect in April, will wipe clean the current list of 17 breeds which are considered potentially dangerous, including Rottweilers, pit bull terriers, bull mastiffs and American bulldogs.

Under the current law, owners of these breeds are required to keep them muzzled in public places and ensure that they pose no danger to others, while failure to respect the law can result in the animal being put down. The new law works on the theory that any dog could be potentially high-risk and puts the onus - morally and legally - on owners, or the person who happens to be in charge of the dog at any one time, to control the pet`s behaviour. The new law also foresees short training courses for prospective dog owners, who will be issued with a special dog licence.

``This is a historic day because we have established for the first time the responsibility of the owner or the person who is momentarily in charge of the animal,`` Martini said. ``The measures adopted in the previous laws had no scientific foundation. Dangerous breeds do not exist. With this law we have overcome the black list, which was just a fig leaf (over the larger problem), and we have increased the level of guarantees for citizens``.

Under the new law, vets will be responsible for compiling a register of individual dogs who they believe may be potentially high risk, and it will be obligatory for owners to keep these pets muzzled in public. The law also requires dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times in urban areas as well as to pick up their dog`s mess, and to carry a muzzle with them in case of need. It also forbids training dogs to be aggressive using sticks and protective body gear, doping, surgery that is not for health purposes and dangerous cross-breeding.