HomeWorldDog gone: Italy bans ‘puppy yoga’ after reports of alleged mistreatment

Dog gone: Italy bans ‘puppy yoga’ after reports of alleged mistreatment


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Passionate yogis in Italy have been taking their downward dog to the next level in studios offering “puppy yoga” classes.

But the health ministry has curtailed the growing trend after banning the use of pups to protect the animals’ health and welfare.

The ministry announced that only adult dogs could be used for “animal assisted” wellbeing activities, including yoga. The ministry said it had been made aware of organisations that would “directly contact dog breeders” in order to temporarily use puppies for yoga sessions.

Animal rights groups had called for a ban after reports in the Italian media revealed alleged mistreatment of the puppies.

Piera Rosati, the president of LNDC Animal Protection, said the puppies were exploited for commercial purposes.

“Yoga, at least in theory, should not be just a practice of physical exercise but also a spiritual one, in search of harmony with the universe,” she said. “But this harmony and wellbeing are not granted to puppies who are used as objects to do business.”

Giusy D’Angelo, a dog expert with Italy’s national board for animal protection, said people could become so overwhelmed with emotion after being in such proximity to puppies they risked making the impulsive decision to adopt one. “It can lead them to make a decision without really considering the implications,” she said.

Puppy yoga, also known as “doga”, has become increasingly popular around the world, with supporters saying the presence of the animals enhances the feeling of calm that comes with the exercise. The puppies roam free around the studios and are there to provide cuddles rather than perform any yoga moves.

“There are many reasons why people do puppy yoga,” said Francesco Di Turi, a manager at Puppy Yoga Official, which organises puppy yoga at gyms and studios across Italy.

“Some might simply want contact with an animal because they don’t have one at home, while there are others suffering from illnesses who find that one hour of practice really helps them to relax.”

According to the company’s website, all of its classes held before the ban came into force on 29 April were sold out.

“This measure doesn’t make sense,” said Di Turi. “Nobody ever came to check what actually happens during a class.

“It will impact a lot of people – we have over 80 staff and since 29 April we haven’t worked. Trying to do this with adult dogs is much more complex.”

But not all yogis like working with dogs. Amity Neumeister, who owns the Zem yoga studio in Rome, hosted puppies for one session. “It was too chaotic,” she said. “We spent a lot of time chasing after them, cleaning up pee and poo.”

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