How local Italians are working to improve the lives of dogs

In 2010 Fiona Cole and Carlo Cesario rescued Dino Fortunato in Calabria, Southern Italy and brought him home to California.   Following their story online at the time reminded me of the ‘local dogs’ I met during my 3 months in Sorrento, Italy

In large Italian cities you may notice dogs with owners in tow, often breeds that may be considered ‘designer’ and you rarely see stray dogs roaming alone or in a group.

The experience of rescuing Dino prompted Fiona and Carlo to question how other countries manage animal rescue and shelters compared to the USA.    Their research went beyond the process of adoption and transportation for just Dino but into the way “animals are thought of and how they fit into our lives and we in theirs”.  

Italy banned euthanasia in 2009 and shelters are paid per day per dog to house dogs.   This has added to the large number of dogs that are not family pets.    Perhaps this humanitarian policy without full consideration for the impact on the number of pets abandoned or surrendered has resulted in the need for policy change.

Dogs fall into groups:  strays, previously owned (abandoned or surrendered to a shelter) and free ranging dogs.   Each group lives differently and have specific needs.

Free dogs, considered packs and possibly dangerous in the USA, live in a group and are self-sufficient.   Free dogs do not thrive in a shelter where they are confined.   They do not mix well with other groups in a shelter.

An open area NOT a cage


Carlo and Fiona’s mission to bring this story to life, brought them back to Italy for interviews with four dedicated dog  advocates: author and dog trainer Luca Spennacchio,  veterinarian Dhorotea Fritz’s animal welfare organization Lega Pro Animale,  Michele Minunno, author, educating shelter workers to improving the dogs experiences  and the managers of the, Ritugio Fata  rescue in Calabria.

The interviews are more than a deeper dive into how Italy manages the endless dog population, but the insightful ideas the speakers shared on the psychology of how humans think of dogs and what the dogs experience.   All this was a surprise and prompted me to listen to the video multiple times.  

Fiona, Carlos, Dino

Locals believe they are ‘saving free dogs’ by taking them to kennels, when they often are committing them to a life in a cage.”   “New ways to see the homeless dog population and how to approach and change the system”, “understanding what a dog needs to thrive” and “increasing neutering and spaying” to manage future populations are shared by the experts interviewed. 

What I may have personally found most striking was “accepting all dogs are not the same………they require different ‘services’ if confined in a shelter”.     The job moving forward may seem daunting, but Carlo and Fiona spoke to just four of the many locals willing to stand up and take the on the job. “

In an interview Diana Latizia for Kodami,  “An immersion in the history from the social and cultural point of view of our country with respect to the relationship with dogs”  Fiona and Carlo explain why they wanted to create this project and what they have learned from some of the experts.     

The entire interview is available online:  Dalla storia di Dino Fortunato a Mondo Stray: così due americani raccontano i randagi italiani ( and points out many facts and ideas included in this post and may initiate discussions and thoughts on how to change and create new options for the population of dogs that may be sentenced to a life in a cage.      

Alba in Roccaraso is not abandoned but when her family had to move to a location that would not allow dogs, the village adopted her.   The family returns to visit with her.  Alba strolls the streets or takes a nap in the sun without the threat of being taken to a shelter.

Episodes can be viewed on the Filo Films YouTube channel, Filo Films Tv://, on Facebook Filo Films and Instagram @filofilms 

A person with a white beard

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Luca Spennacchio

Writer and photographer.  “Dog instructor, teacher for training courses for educators, kennel operators, pet-therapy conductors, consultant in applied zoo anthropology. Speaker in conferences and seminars.”

Dr. Dhorotea Fritz

German immigrant veterinarian Dorothea Fritz, founded the Castel Volturno-based Lega Pro Animale Sterilization Centre for Dogs & Cats in 1986, “Every dog and cat to be registered with a caring owner, no more stray pets living in the streets or in overcrowded kennels” (from her online page.

Michaele Minunno

The author of From Predatory Behaviour to Relationships: looking at dogs from different perspetives that dig deep into dog behavior. Available on Amazon.

Minunno works with shelters in Puglia training workers to identify fee dogs from those surrendered by owners and works with shelter manager to create healthy living conditions for the mental health of the dogs.

Fausto Vighi

VP with Dog Evolution and instructor at Think Dog.    

From the FB page:  ThinkDog is a vision and a set of methods aimed at realizing the full potential of the relationship with the dog.

*Fiona Cole / Documentary filmmaker and freelance content creator. British born, LA based.   Producer of MONDO STRAY, a four-part documentary about stray dogs in Italy.

The documentary, Mondo Stray, was written, edited, filmed and produced by Fiona* and Carlo.

Videographer for PAWSITIVE CHANGE

Published by Lee Laurino

A traveler not a tourist, searching for experiences not in travel books. Solo traveler who travels as long and far as possible sharing photos of the people and places I discover

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