Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Dogs of Pompeii

I'm back from hiatus from our wedding! As we await our next foster, I thought I'd report back from our honeymoon...

Dogs weren't far from our minds. The south of France seemed to be full of people that loved their small, un-neutered dogs—specifically Yorkies and Westies. And then there was the USDA beagle that sniffed me out among hundreds of people at the airport for "smuggling" cookies from Spain.

Above all else, there were the stray dogs of Pompeii. If you've ever visited, you may have seen this famous mosaic of one of Pompeii's guard dogs, which warns "beware of the dog."

I'm sure you also noticed the more modern dogs sleeping in the shade of ancient columns. There are more modern signs that tell visitors not to approach or pet any of these dogs that call Pompeii home. I obeyed and snapped photos of them from a distance—thinking that the photos looked like they belonged on Petfinder.

Luckily, the Italian government is a few steps ahead. Or maybe they had to be. There were isolated reports of dogs attacking visitors at the popular tourist attraction, as well as recurring problems with the dogs fighting over food and females in heat. With an estimated 50 stray dogs at the ruins at any given time, there were also problems with local gangs recruiting (read: stealing) the animals for dog fighting. 

So, in 2009, Pompeii's administrators started a program to promote the adoption of dogs. The dogs were given medical attention, spayed/neutured, microchipped, and outfitted with Roman names. Then, they were put up for adoption. In the program's first six months, the Times reports 22 dogs were adopted. 

As we noticed, the issue has not been solved since the program was handed over to local volunteers last summer. Many dogs are still abandoned in Southern Italy—particularly by pilgrims who visit the area each year and by those who know that their dog will likely be fed and cared for if deserted at Pompeii. Overpopulation knows no boundaries and has no easy solution. But at least someone is doing something to help these dogs stand a fighting chance.

Visit the project's website, (C)ave Canem, for more information. Then, check out these articles from Discovery News and The New York Times


  1. Everywhere I've traveled, stray dogs stand out to me. Spain, France, Monaco, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico...
    It's interesting that here in the states, at least where I've lived, I've never witnessed a crew of stray dogs. I wonder if maybe I just live in an area with useful animal control?

  2. That's so wonderful, that they're well cared for. I really notice stray dogs too when I travel. The biggest surprise was in Guatemala and Peru, where I would follow them around and leave piles of dry dog food for them. They were less interested in it than I would have expected--I think they get so skilled at scavenging that dry kibble is just boring!