I don’t always understand the human race, so full of contradictions. Like everywhere in the world, Sicily has a problem with abandoned pets, mainly cats and dogs. In times of economic crisis the first thing to go seems to be the family pet, left at the side of the road. This has always been a problem in Sicily and elsewhere but the extent and the lack of animal charities here makes the problem far worse.
Abandoned dogs will do anything to survive and these intelligent animals form packs that roam the streets looking for food. Believe you me they can be rather menacing and the bigger the pack the bigger the risk. When I lived in Trapani there was a gang of dogs who slept on the beach, we would cross the road to get past that section and once my friend almost ran in front of a car when they started to bark and growl at us. In 2009, a pack of dogs killed a young boy and mauled a German tourist. The media reported that the pack had escaped from a man whose job it was to look after stray dogs that had been rounded up by the local council. I have seen plenty of packs or gangs of dogs whilst in Sicily. In Catania a whole street almost came to a standstill as a pack of dogs passed through. Most people including myself sought refuge in the nearest bar/shop. I have seen them get on trains, sleep on beaches and roundabouts. They break in to chicken coops and wreak havoc.
Councils in my view do little to contain the problem, ignorance is the easy option and they will probably claim lack of funds if you ever questioned them. Dogs get dumped for all sorts of reasons and people will sometimes come from mainland Italy to dump their ‘beloved pet’ far from home. They go on holiday with a dog, they go home again without one.
Cats don’t get it easy either. Scores of them are to be found living wild. They are often not neutered so go on breeding, although only a couple of their kittens normally survive their harsh living conditions. There is a large group of feral cats living in and around the rubbish bins in the car park at the bottom of out street. I have seen numerous people stops in their cars with tins of cat food for them but surely it would be better to give them a home instead? These cats are even more vulnerable to dog attacks. My brother-in-law rescued two young kittens after their mother was ripped apart by savage dogs whilst protecting them. They were lucky, many other kittens and cats are not.
It is the kindhearted that save some cats & dogs from a hellish existence on the streets. Luce was found on the roadside after being hit by a car, again by my brother-in-law. She was taken to four vets before one agreed to try and save her. That was at least 8 years ago. She is still alive and well and is one of the sweetest, most docile cats I have ever come across. Another two homeless cats have congregated in the garden of the in-laws begging for food outside the kitchen door. They were both pregnant, so now there are 5 kittens hiding in the bushes, fighting for survival. They have already lost some brothers and sisters. They venture out from time to time to play but are always extremely cautious. One of the mothers is helping with the pigeon problem, killing at least one on a seemingly daily basis.
And now, we have a puppy named Whisky (formerly known as Toffee). Discovered abandoned along with two other puppies on the roadside, he was taken in temporarily by a nearby stables. Our friend took him home but was unable for many reasons to keep him so we offered to provide him with a home instead. At least in that way she would still be able to see him. We don’t know his exact breed, the vet put it down as a fantasy. He is about 2 months old and sniffs everything. He also loves chewing shoes, sticking his head right in to get a good sniff at the same time. How anyone could abandon him I don’t know. We have only had him a few weeks but already he is part of the family. Everyone comments on him and says what a lovely dog he is and he is already so well-behaved. The cats at the in-laws are a bit unsure though, the kittens are curious but freak out when he tries to start playing with them. He just keeps trying to play. The other cats hissed at first but more often than not now look at him with displeasure but tolerate him nonetheless. Dogs give so much love, yes they need your time, attention and food etc but what you get back from them is so much more.