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They are our best friends: affectionate, playful, faithful. They stay at our side when we are ill or sad, always ready to cuddle with us, to show that they will be there for us in any circumstance. They have been keeping us company in our daily activities since the beginning of time, once they helped our progenitors when they went hunting and in defending their families. Today, if well-trained and cared for, they can also carry out a significant, therapeutic social function, especially with disabled people. The companionship between man and dog is so rooted that we often forget their nature. The fact that they are animals, and as such, keep characteristics and habits that are different from ours and we need to know how to handle them. Especially when they remember that they are wolves and that predator’s instinct is part of their DNA. Not much is needed, a wrong gesture, a smell, or a movement perceived as dangerous in order to cause a tragedy. Like the one that on Sunday evening has involved an 11-year old girl in Pino Torinese, bitten in the face by a Rottweiler that belonged to family friends. The girl was, rather innocently, playing with the animal. A snarl and the jaws of the animal closed around her face, demanding the intervention of the adults to save her life and, subsequently, a delicate maxillofacial plastic operation.

A case that reopens the debate on the relationship between man and animal, too often based on an equality model, as if a dog stopped being a dog when dressed and treated as a son. Because when we cease to be “masters” and begin to be “fathers” and “mothers”, the beast becomes dominant, exactly as they would do in nature. And the animal behaves as it wants to, especially with strangers and even more so with the youngest. Unfortunately, there are plenty of precedents. A few days ago in Lecce, a three-year old girl had to undergo the amputation of a leg which had been torn apart by the attack of her uncle’s Pitbull. The man is now under investigation for omitted supervision.

An even worse case is that of a little girl, 2.5, from San Martino Tagliamento (Pordenone), torn apart by a Belgian shepherd that belonged to some family members on May 25 this year. Useless was the race towards the hospital: the wounds on her neck were so deep that the little girl did not survive. Another little boy from Monza would have probably had the same fate, torn apart in January by one of the three Rottweiler of the family while he was playing in the garden and was saved by three passers-by who heard his mother’s desperate cries. Before that, in 2014, happened the terrible story of a 3-years old girl torn apart by her own German shepherd in Fiano Rome, near Rome. A few months earlier another child, on the Lampedusa island, was attacked and bitten on the streets of the island, where he was on vacation with his parents. The little boy’s face and head have been seriously injured.

But why do dogs attack children so often? If they are infants, it happens sometimes that the dog does not recognize them as people. They are smaller, do not walk on two legs and emit sounds different from those of the adults, that are exchanged for the call of a prey. In cases when children are a little older, what exposes them to risk are sudden movements and, often unaware, harassment. This is why experts recommend to teach kids to respect the animal, not to mistreat it, so as to avoid possible, fatal, reactions. Another golden rule is never to leave children and the dog unattended and to always keep an eye on them. We must not forget that man’s best friend considers family to be its flock and, therefore, it has the tendency to feel jealous about new arrivals, including kids.

Aggressions, in any case, can affect also grownups. Atrocious is the story of Lydia Bider, a woman of 83, from Carisio (Vercelli), found on June 19, 2013, by the police from the Santhià station and by the Company of Vercelli. When the military men arrived at her place, they witnessed a gruesome scene: the lady had been torn apart in her bed by a Spanish Dalmatian breed and a Rottweiler kept in the room of the retired woman. A little before this episode, a 60-year old was assaulted by two Pitbulls while she was walking her dog. In April 2013, then, a man from Pavese was killed by a friend’s Dogue de Bordeaux entrusted to him for a few days. At last, we remember the case of a man from Massa Carrara, attacked in 2012 by a group of Rottweilers and hospitalized in severe conditions at the city hospital, with deep wounds on his face and arm.

Different events as far as their genesis is concerned. At times, what promotes aggression are excessive permissiveness or the blind trust of the masters ( “stroke it, it is good”). Or the uncivilized violation of the laws that impose a leash and a muzzle when the animal is taken out. In other cases what enhances aggressiveness are suffered mistreatment, isolation, and abandonment by humans. Besides, there is the huge problem of the stray animals, that lurks in different geographic areas of Italy. According to the data spread by the League against vivisection, currently on the Italian territory there are estimated to be at least 600 thousand unleashed dogs. Many of them live in cities, but many circulate freely in rural areas or near beaches and pine woods, especially in the South of Italy. The question does not have to be underestimated because dogs, once they make return to their animal condition, gather in flocks, becoming thus much more dangerous than wolves. And when instinct becomes their master again and the smell of blood enters their nostrils, they forget to have been our best friends once.

Translation provided by Ecaterina Severin

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