Italy has won praise from the American animal rights' group PETA for its pioneering efforts to create a happier and more humane world for animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals singled out in particular laws adopted by the cities of Rome, Turin and Reggio Emilia in favor of the well-being of animals. Rome was cited for its legislation against keeping goldfish in small and inadequate aquariums and using the fish as prizes at amusement parks and fairs.
Other laws singled out by PETA included the one demanding that dogs be taken out at least four times a day and the ban on cutting dogs' tails for esthetic reasons. Turin wages fines of up to 500 euros on dog owners who do not take their pets out at least three times a day. Reggio Emilia received special mention from PETA for its law against boiling live lobsters.
"Italy is demonstrating to the rest of the world how animals should be treated. The world would be a better place if other countries followed its example," PETA said.
In August 2004 Italy passed a tough law against animal abuse which included hefty fines and jail terms of between three and 18 months for a range of crimes against animals. While dumping, torturing or killing animals has been outlawed in Italy for many years, the new legislation also criminalized keeping animals in conditions that cause unnecessary suffering or forcing them to behave in a way "incompatible with their instincts".
While Italy may be progressive in its treatment of animals, some national animals rights groups believe it still has a long way to go. Critics of the 2004 law, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), complained that it failed to recognise animals "any rights or legal value" and primarily dealt with domestic pets like cats and dogs.
"We cannot accept that greater safeguards for pets comes at the cost of a worse situation for all other animals," they said, noting that "700 million tortured and exploited animals raised for meat or subject to vivisection will continue to suffer".
A study by animal rights' association LAV found that while animals are playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of Italians, they still suffer maltreatment and poor living conditions.
LAV noted that 250,000 animals are still bred and killed for fur each year in Italy, while some 900,000 were subjected to cruel experiments for research purposes.