A Dog’s Paradise

In Italy, there is a saying that goes, “Under the tree at Christmas, onto the highway in August.” Owners close up shops, and Rome stands still for the last week in June. Everyone puts their lives on hold for a week to migrate to the beach to enjoy summer vacation. The streets become barren, empty of almost all living creatures. In the past, the only thing scurrying around the streets were pets that once had a home. New strays would run rampant, scared from being left behind by their beloved family. These pets couldn’t participate in the family vacation because Italian beaches didn’t allow animals to go with their owners. With the families packing up and heading out to the ocean, the family dog had to stay. Because Italians didn’t want to give up their time in the sun, they sacrificed a pet that they had raised as part of their family just to enjoy a week of fun and relaxation. The family dog, once loved and cherished by everyone, became a homeless wild animal that no one cared about enough to help.

Italy faced a disturbing reality of an uncontrollable population of helpless animals wandering around, scavenging for food, water, and shelter. It had a few animal shelters, but the buildings only held a certain capacity before they ran out of beds and places for animals to sleep. The rest got kicked out on the street to fend for themselves and most likely starve to death. It’s hard to comprehend why a family who created such a strong bond with a living being could throw it away like a piece of unwanted garbage. Imagine an owner who walked out the front door, listened to her pet whimpering, and knew she would never see her animal again. Granted, Italians do not take their annual vacation lightly. Still, it should never even have crossed their minds to leave behind a part of the family.

Italians realized that their treatment of animals needed to change because stray dogs became a growing problem. People figured out that they shouldn’t throw a dog out of the car and keep on with the trip. Being an innovative culture, they came up with a viable solution that has proven extremely effective. Bau Beach opened its doors to owners and their pets so they could enjoy a vacation with the whole family. According to Andrews, this place describes itself as “the world’s first beach for free, happy dogs.” Some of the amenities include a designated area for the pooches to play in and a safe environment that people and their pets can enjoy. For a small price to keep the facility running, dogs can run leash-free and get a royal pampering. Each dog gets its own water bowl and umbrella for the day that helps it beat the summer heat. This invention proves that Italy has shown deep understanding of animal rights and the expanding science behind the similarities between humans and dogs.

The assignments Bau Beach takes on prove just how much passion the people there have for animals. One of the major plans taking place is the park shelter for small animals. This place started because the city wanted a beautiful, fun place for homeless dogs to live until they get adopted. It includes places to roam more freely, as opposed to dogs being stuck in a tiny cage. According to Gisella Penazzi on the Bau Beach website, “Oasis does not want to be a place of detention, pain, and loneliness.” Usually, dogs get thrown into an unsanitary, desolate shelter and find loving homes (hopefully) whenever they get adopted. This place created a concept new to most people–that dogs and other small animals should be cared for throughout the whole process, and should live a comfortable life even if they will live at the shelter the whole time. To its great credit, Italy has gained a special conscience toward some of its most vulnerable residents.

Bau Beach has become much more than just a fun way to spend leisure time. The people who have made these features possible are always working on ways to improve treatment of animals in Italy. They continue to chase after their passion outside of giving a dog a relaxing day at the beach. The money they make by charging an entry fee and having additional luxuries available for a reasonable price allows them to work on projects within the community. One of the first actions taken was creating pet adoptions for homeless canines. Besides holding adoptions on site, they work with other organizations to sponsor as many shelters as possible. This gives stray dogs a second chance at life and reduces the number of abandoned animals on the streets. Hence, this destination grew from a simple pet-friendly vacation spot to a major contribution for a growing need in their country.

This advanced idea of the dog-friendly beach also makes cities in Italy, like Rome, more attractive to visit. Countries around the world struggle with stray animal,s and up until now, none have come up with an idea to fix this problem. Although most people may not view this issue as important enough to put time and money into, reducing homeless domesticated animals creates rewarding benefits for the country and the capital. By getting these animals off the streets and into adoption centers, the city will becomes cleaner. Efforts are also made to get the dogs into permanent homes so they won’t end up in the shelters again. Cleanliness in this case not only refers to the actual sanitation, which will greatly improve, but also physical appearance. Italy is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations for tourists, which helps their economy thrive. According to The World Bank Group, Italy brought in a whopping 46,360,000 tourists in 2012, and those numbers only increase year after year. For that reason, going on a trip to Rome or Venice needs to be a pleasant experience with clean, beautiful places to see. Removing rampant, grungy creatures from main streets greatly increases the attraction of Italian cities.

By taking time to work on this problem, the people involved have ensured that the safety of locals and foreigners should vastly improve. Even today, stray dog attacks present a major problem, but hopefully dog-friendly beaches will help diminish attack rates. People will also feel safer walking around the local communities. Stray dogs harming and even killing people on the streets happens a lot more often than it should in Italy. Stories have popped up all over about people who have died from attacks by packs of stray dogs. Headlines report that a ten year old boy died from an attack by ten dogs, and a German tourist got ripped to shreds. Significant numbers of tourists and locals alike suffer from attacks. According to Squires, around 450,000 dogs roamed Italy in 2009. Obviously, people will get hurt with that substantial amount of strays living in the neighborhoods. Building sanctuaries and places for the dogs to go just makes good sense.

Besides the surface-level progress Italy has made, it has reached further into animal rights research than any other society. Italians have come to the conclusion that humans’ basic needs to survive match up identically with animals’ needs. Humans are animals, too, and all animals need food to get energy, water to control body temperature, air to breathe, and shelter to protect them from danger. Therefore, humans and other animals should share the same rights. Evidently, this idea won’t go over well with everyone. Even though our basic needs intertwine, dogs and humans have some major differences, one of which is being able to communicate at a sophisticated level. This means that since dogs can’t talk to us to express what they think or feel, humans have the responsibility to stand up for their well-being.

Although scientists say we only need those four components to survive, a fifth should make that list because it arguably contributes just as much: love. Italians understand the importance of love in one’s life. The reason to live doesn’t stop at just trying to survive until life ends. They appreciate that living has many more components than basic existence. Yes, humans hold the only spot in the animal kingdom to be able to express emotion verbally. Even our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, can’t form words because they lack the hyoid bone. Because of this development, a majority of the time people rely on verbal communication. Therefore, some people mistakenly assume that animals don’t have feelings; they only know how to react instinctively to survive. If this assumption rings true for pets, it also proves truthful for the way a human body works. We release chemicals subconsciously, but what makes us different is the ability to process what it means and to make a decision on how to act on the feeling your body gives you. Just because a living thing can’t process a feeling or emotion doesn’t mean that certain feelings or thoughts didn’t occur. The world needs someone, somewhere to put together the link between species. Any culture that can put their arrogant views aside that people rise above all can move the world with their passion and understanding.

Research proves further that humans and dogs have similar feelings. Both produce the same chemical: oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the cuddling hormone, was first known as the hormone released when a mother holds her baby. With more research, scientists learned that oxytocin releases into the body when pleasure or happiness appears. It can show up when talking to a loved one or even when meeting a stranger. When a major amount of this hormone releases, we can even call it “love.” According to Desfosse, one study shows that animals have the same reactions as we do regarding oxytocin. As Professor Zak noted regarding a friendship between a dog and goat, “The dog showed a 48 percent increase in oxytocin. This rise indicated that the dog truly did view the goat as a friend. The goat, on the other hand, had a 210 percent increase in oxytocin. A similar rise in humans would indicate intense feelings of love.” This study proves that even though a canine can’t say “I love you,” it experiences the same feeling. All of this research shows that animals deserve better treatment. They deserve a chance to live wonderful lives just like us because they experience the same sensations.

Once other cultures follow along, the world will thrive. To put it in perspective, Italy treats its dogs better than many Americans treat each other. Our country, along with others, has adoption shelters and people working on bettering the treatment of animals. But, only Italy has one of the largest number of people taking a stand. They have come the furthest in terms of progress. In the future, other nations will hopefully adopt the same mindset. Fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of proper animal treatment and trying to pay attention to what goes on around them. I think America will become more pet-friendly in the next decade. It will just take a fair amount of the populace to stand up and explain in clear terms why this issue matters. Making progress can mean touching one life. Igniting that spark can make all the difference in the world.

Bau Beach and others like it have created a dog’s paradise, or at least an approximation of one. This transformation has blossomed into a major part of Italy’s ever-growing society. Americans should take initiative and follow in Italy’s footsteps. This would do wonders for our animal rights movement while making us better people, both individually and collectively.

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Blake FaucettBlake Faucett is currently a college student working on a general biology degree. In graduate school, she plans on pursuing marine biology, and she eventually wants to work at a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation center for marine animals.