The #FreeMiro petition was set up by dog-owner Eva Munter, who claims her Maremma shepherd Miro was confiscated based on “unfounded accusations” of noise.
“Miro is part of my family,” she wrote, asking others to support her request that prosecutors release the animal. “He has a home and a large garden in which to run and play. Miro has been taken away from us as if he were an object and not a living creature with feelings.”
Munter and her partner had already been fined twice over Miro's alleged barking, paying €70 and €154 on two occasions over the winter, according to the petition. On March 22nd, the three-year-old dog was seized by local police following a third noise complaint from neighbours in Roveré della Luna, a small town in Trentino.
On this occasion, Munter refused to pay the fine and instead the case will be heard in court next week. In the meantime, prosecutors have moved Miro to a kennel.
In a petition launched on Change.org, Munter said that no other neighbours had ever complained about loud noise and added that Miro was let into the house at night to avoid any potential disturbance.
She also said that after researching other cases of pet confiscations, she had only found instances when the orders were issued to protect the animal from negligent or violent owners. “But the only effect of this order is to harm Miro,” she said.
The head of Italian animal rights' organization Enpa has also called for Miro to be released, saying the dog would suffer in the kennel and that “issues of this kind should be resolved with reason, common sense, respect and mutual tolerance”.
The petition reached 90,000 signatures within one week and at the time of publication had surpassed 150,000, with hundreds adding their name each hour.
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It's not the first time Italians have rallied in their thousands to save a canine friend.
In June last year, hundreds of thousands of Italians mobilized to save Iceberg, a dog ordered to be put down in Denmark, where her breed is considered dangerous to humans.
Iceberg's Italian owner had not been aware he was keeping his pet illegally, having procured the correct documents and cleared customs with his Argentinian mastiff.
Italian animal rights' organization Enpa led a huge effort to save the dog, with an online petition, protests outside the Danish embassy, and intervention from Italy's politicians and a pop star.
Eventually the story had a happy ending, with Iceberg allowed to return home to Italy.
Italy has more relaxed rules relating to potentially dangerous dogs than many other European countries, after a law calling for owners of certain breeds to muzzle their animals and keep them on a leash in public was scrapped.
READ MORE: Italians rally to save Denmark death-row dog