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Italy

Kaos the ‘hero’ quake rescue dog is dead. His owner suspects poison

The fatal poisoning of a rescue dog used to find survivors in a quake in Italy is sparking calls for tougher penalties against such attacks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 3:12pm

When a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit the central Italian town of Amatrice two years ago, Fabiano Ettore and his German shepherd, Kaos, were among the first to join in the rescue efforts.

Kaos, who was just over a year old at the time, worked for days with other dogs to find survivors of the quake, which killed 241 people and destroyed most of the town, The New York Times reported.

Months after the Amatrice earthquake in August 2016, Kaos also helped with rescue efforts after an earthquake in the town of Norcia and took part in other missing-person searches.

On Saturday, Kaos, hailed as a “hero dog” by Italians, was found dead. Ettore, who found the dog’s body in the garden of their home in Sant’Eusanio Forconese, said in a Facebook post that Kaos has been poisoned.

“I have no words,” he wrote.

“I can’t understand such a horrible act.”

Ettore, who is an animal trainer, added that he was sure Kaos had been alive the previous night because he had heard him barking as late as 2am. It is not immediately clear how Kaos was poisoned or whether it was intentional, but police have opened an investigation, The Guardian reported. Animal rights activists have condemned the incident, describing Kaos’s alleged killer as a “dangerous criminal”.

“They killed the hero who, together with rescuers, dug with his four paws during those dramatic hours to find survivors of that massacre,” Rinaldo Sidoli, a spokesman for Animalisti Italiani, a Rome-based animal rights group, told The Guardian.

“Kaos saved humans, and those same humans poisoned him.” Sidoli also called for new laws that would introduce harsher penalties for animal cruelty.

Italian lawmaker and business executive Michela Brambilla said that she hoped Kaos’s death would encourage members of Parliament to pass a bill against animal cruelty that she had proposed earlier this year.

Giulia Grillo, Italy’s health minister, expressed condolences online, writing that she was working with Environment Minister Sergio Costa and Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede to expand penalties for the “heartless criminals” behind animal poisonings.

According to a 2012 study that looked at data from the Poison Control Centre of Milan, a majority of animal poisonings in Italy involve dogs.

A 2014 study by Italian researchers examined diagnostic data of 870 dogs in Rome and found that poisoning was the second-most common cause of death for dogs, with more than 17 per cent of them dying from consuming toxic materials. The report said that in urban environments, there can be a “low level of social tolerance to neighbours’ dogs” and that “intentionally located poisoned baits” are common.

Additional reporting by Associated Press