Pompeii dogs seek families
New care scheme to protect strays and site
Pompeii, November 16 - The world-famous archaeological site of Pompeii is seeking adoptive parents from around the globe for its community of stray dogs, as part of a drive to improve the lives of animals living there. Strays have lived on the site for decades, scavenging for food, posing a health risk to visitors and undermining the site, Pompeii's emergency commissioner Marcello Fiori said on Monday. ''This is a legal initiative but also one of kindness,'' he explained, unveiling the project at the House of the Tragic Poet, home to the renowned ''Cave Canem'' mosaic. ''Stray dogs have given Pompeii a bad image. They will not be eliminated but should be taken care of. ''But they cannot remain at the site forever. Our aim is to find them a family''.
A website will eventually be launched by the name of www.canidipompei.com (''dogs of Pompeii'') but the first phase of the initiative is already under way.
Volunteers from three of Italy's leading animal charities, anti-vivisection league LAV, the National Animal Protection Authority and the National Dog Protection League, have been fitting the animals with microchips, collars and name tags.
In the next phase, the animals will be treated for any illnesses and then sterilized. Special animal welfare offices have already been set up around the ancient site, staffed by volunteers and providing food and warm shelter.
Italian Culture Undersecretary Francesco Giro, who attended the presentation, expressed his satisfaction at the plan, saying ''action to deal with the stray dogs has been needed for years''. He also praised developments at Pompeii under the site's ''emergency commissioner'', saying more work had been done ''in the last 15 months than in the whole of the previous years''. The role was created in July 2008 when the government declared a yearlong official state of emergency for Pompeii, since extended, following a string of press reports highlighting the rundown condition of the site. The first emergency commissioner, Renato Profili, held the post until January of this year, when he was replaced by Fiori. Giro said the government had invested over 30 million euros in 100 different projects designed to improve the site but said more was still needed. ''Overall, we have calculated 55 million euros is needed but I will do my best to ask for more funds,'' said the undersecretary.
He said the goal was to ensure surface digs became proper excavations and to increase the number of villas open to the public - currently just 40 of Pompeii's 150 homes. ''Our hope is to make Pompeii a living city, not just a museum,'' he said. Every year over two million people visit Pompeii, which was smothered in lava and ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.