Italy bans puppy yoga classes amid welfare concerns

Italy bans puppy yoga classes amid welfare concerns
  • PublishedMay 4, 2024

Italy’s Ministry of Health has banned the popular wellness trend of “puppy yoga” amid concerns that the puppies used in the practice could be exploited and mistreated.

Typically, sessions involve puppies roaming around a yoga class and sometimes being incorporated in poses.

Giovanni Leonardi, head of the One Health department of Italy’s health ministry, ruled Tuesday that the use of dogs during exercise sessions falls under Italy’s Animal Assisted Interventions act. This means that only adult dogs can now be used in yoga sessions to “protect the health and well-being of the animals, as well as the safety of users.”

The ruling comes following an investigation in March by the popular Italian news show “Striscia la Notizia,” which alleged that puppies were mistreated at various yoga centers and kept in pens between sessions.

Animal rights charity Lega Nazionale per la Difesa del Cane (National League for the Defense of Dogs) filed a complaint with the Italian health ministry after these allegations came to light, telling authorities in documents seen by CNN that the puppies were treated “as if they were gymnastics tools.”

The puppies used in the sessions were transported in boxes or plastic bags, were used for long hours covering multiple sessions, and were not provided water or food to “prevent the dogs from doing their business in the gym,” LNDC alleged, noting that the Striscia la Notizia investigation found that many of the puppies were only 42 days old.

“Given their age, it is highly likely that these puppies had not even completed their vaccination prophylaxis,” the LNDC complaint suggested.

CNN reached out to several Italian puppy yoga centers for comment with no success.

The ruling does not have a legal arena for appeal, a spokesperson for Italy’s health ministry said. “It is the same as any service animal. You would never expect to see a puppy as a sight dog,” the spokesperson told CNN Friday.

LNDC’s President Piera Rosati called the practice “exploitation for commercial purposes that takes no account of the well-being and psychophysical health of creatures who are still too fragile to be treated in this way.”

“At that age, puppies should not have to face travel and stress, but stay in a calm and protected environment under the guidance and care of their mother who can teach them to socialize correctly and to face the outside world with confidence,” Rosati continued.

Elisa Allen, vice president of programs and operations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK, commended Italy for banning puppy yoga in a statement to CNN Friday.

Allen called the practice “a sales gimmick designed to promote the breeding of ‘pedigree’ dogs – who are prone to severe physical problems later in life – and which violates the fundamental principle of yoga: ahimsa, or doing no harm.”

“While governments around the world should take heed, we must not wait to do the right thing: PETA urges yogis to stay away from this cheap ploy that uses sensitive animals as props to their detriment,” Allen said.


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