The reality of animal shelters in Italy, whether we are talking about dog kennels or cat shelters, is really complicated and difficult to manage and it is necessary to start from afar to reconstruct their past when it all began in 1991.
The concept of shelter in fact was born in the 90s to prevent the presence of stray dogs on the territory.
Some regions in Italy, especially Southern ones like Sicily in particular, still have to face a huge stray problem because of the lack of funds, while Northern regions basically have no strays on their territory.
Until the 90s, the shelters were few and they had a mere rabies prevention role. The dogs found wandering were brought to these facilities and kept under observation for ten days, the time necessary for the symptomatic manifestations of rabid infection. Following these ten days of observation, if the dogs had not been claimed by any owner or by any adopter, they could have been, and in fact were, subjected to euthanasia.
At the cat shelter cats also have an indoor area for the colder months
Nowadays the kennels are divided into health facility kennels and shelter kennels. The health facility kennels are the first reception facilities for captured stray dogs. Their function is mainly the prevention of the transmission of diseases between dogs and between dogs and humans. They are public structures whose veterinary services are guaranteed by the Veterinary Services of the public territorial administration. If the dogs are not claimed by any owner, they must remain in such health facility kennel for a minimum period of ten days and a maximum of two months, the maximum time established in Italy to search for the rightful owner. For this reason, the neutering or spaying of the animals cannot take place before this time frame has passed.
Once the maximum stay in the health facility kennel has passed, the dogs are transferred to the shelter kennel. For these dogs, being moved to a new place and in the presence of new animals is really stressful. Shelter kennels, as they are now conceived, can be privately or publicly owned and can be managed by private companies, animal protection associations or be of mixed management.
Municipalities establish a manager of the facility who will have to ensure adequate nutrition and health care for the animals through an agreement with private veterinarians. Some municipalities pay for the medicines, pay for dog education, animal welfare and establish a network for quality adoptions, but unfortunately the general rule is based on the guarantee of the bare minimum.
Taking over the management of a kennel by a private individual or an association is not always based on the intrinsic desire to guarantee the welfare of the animals unfortunately as there are always ruthless and corrupted people around but, in most cases, a good network of animal lover volunteers always check and report anything suspicious being done.
For cats there aren’t health facility kennels but just cat shelters where many cats can usually live in an enclosed outdoor area together waiting to be adopted.
Such cat shelters can usually host up to 100 cats at a time and volunteers usually feed the cats and clean after them while small maintenance jobs are normally done by people who need to do social services because of DUI fines or other penalties like those.
My mom volunteers in one of these shelters here in Liguria and there are usually cats who have been victims of abuse, accidents, cats who have been found in remote areas (probably lost or abandoned), pregnant cats, etc.
My mom feeding the cats at the cat shelter
Only cats who are sick or pregnant are put in separate enclosed areas to protect them or separate them from the other cats present in the facility.
Cats that can be contagious to others are kept separated
In Italy there are also various regulatory provisions on the protection of cats living in freedom in cat colonies and these cats, if they are not hurt, remain free.
The local health authorities manage the colonies of cats living in the wild and must in fact ensure their health care and survival conditions.
We therefore see that a national law recognizes the protection of free cats, therefore not privately owned, and provides that the animals are protected against mistreatment and spayed/neutered FOR FREE by the municipality (if they get to catch them), so that the number of cats belonging to a ‘feline colony’ can be kept under control.
Furthermore, even at the local level, there are regulatory provisions that protect free cats, in fact, in application of the aforementioned national law, each region has issued its own laws governing the phenomenon of straying, providing for specific provisions on the feline colonies.
According to the aforementioned legislation, the feline colony can therefore be moved only if it is inevitable for the protection of the animals or for serious health reasons and, this activity must be carried out by specialized personnel.
We must also remember that the legislation protecting free cats does not exclude any criminal liability in case of mistreatment of one or more cats or killing of animals, which provides for prison and very high fines for those who commit this crime.
Bulletin board for the dog kennel for adoptions