Tuscany is about to become a dog-owners' paradise, with a new law allowing pets into art galleries, theatres, restaurants, cinemas, post offices, museums and beaches.
The law, which is due to come into force by June and reverses a longstanding ban, was drawn up by the Greens on the centre-left Tuscan regional council.
Fabio Roggiolani, a leader of the Greens and head of the regional health commission, said: “We are knocking down the barriers that separate Man from his best friends.
“Most people in Tuscany agree with this measure, which is in line with regional regulations forbidding discrimination or cruelty against domestic animals.”
To protect public health and hygiene, pets will have to have a veterinary health certificate, and dogs must be muzzled if necessary. Owners will have to guarantee that their pets will not disturb public order.
Mr Roggiolani said that “for obvious reasons” dogs and other pets would still be banned from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale, the Florence opera house. “We have to apply a bit of common sense.”
In theory the measure applies to all domestic animals. “A taboo has fallen,” Corriere della Sera said. “Fido can go with you to the trattoria, Sylvester the Cat can purr beneath Michelangelo's David, Tweety Pie can chirrup in his cage at the foot of his owner's hospital bed.”
In practice it is dogs that are most likely to have their daily walks extended to the beach or the art gallery. Roberto Santini, who runs a beach concession at the Tuscan resort of Forte dei Marmi, said that many of his clients had dogs, including Massimo Moratti, the president of Inter Milan football club, who often cut his holiday short because he could not bear to leave the dog behind.
Fulvio Pierangelini, an Italian celebrity chef, said that he was relaxed about allowing pets into his restaurant at San Vincenzo on the Tuscan coast provided they behaved properly, adding: “Mind you, I draw the line at cooking for them.”
Franco Zeffirelli, the opera and film director, who has four dogs, said that the move “rewards the dignity of Man's best friends”. He added: “Dogs and cats are rather like small children - they should stay where they are happiest. I would never take my dogs to La Scala. It would be torture for them.”
Cristina Acidini, head of museums in Florence, said that she loved animals but was horrified at the idea of pets running riot in the Uffizi Gallery. “There are hundreds of paintings with dogs or cats in them, but I am alarmed at the idea of them being allowed into art galleries, which are overcrowded as it is,” she said. “Museums are places for aesthetic meditation, not for pitbulls or dalmatians, not to mention parrots or goldfish.”
Marcella Amadio, a centre-right regional councillor, said that she was concerned about allergies. “I distrust people who love animals more than humans,” she said.
Margherita D'Amico, an animal rights campaigner, said that there would now be pressure for similar laws in other parts of Italy, including Rome.
Source: Times online March 19 2008 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3578748.ece