Open letter to Minister Girolamo Sirchia

Mario Barbuto

Mr. Minister,

Today, a S.U.A. (Socially Useful Animal) is writing you, specifically, a guide dog for the blind.

I ask you to please be understanding of my broken language! The languages you human beings use are so... And so difficult to learn. I'm afraid that you often end up being confused yourselves, understanding fair for fare. Or is it fallible for failure... Anyway, failure or not, it is certain that:

- because of a scoundrel from our species (Well you know, we are all alike, aren't we. Isn't that what you think?);
- because of an over-exaggerated media campaign;
- because of a circular (I think that is what you call it) coming from you, which was corrected than revised, but which was still unjust towards us poor dogs; a
terror strategy of crying wolf has taken place, which risks to compromise human-dog relations with unpredictable negative consequences.

Have you heard, Mr. Minister, about this young blind man at the University of Bologna, accompanied by one of my colleagues who was thrown out of class by the Law professor because the guide dog apparently constituted a threat to other students? Oh, you will reply to those who have jobs like mine that they are not included in your measure and that the circular recalls only races which are potentially dangerous... You, humans, and your damn obsession with race! The profound hatred which has torn you apart and divided you for centuries, the past and present genocides based on race haven't convinced you yet to abandon these mental and moral categories... You even want to transfer on us these ill-fated effects. But, let's leave aside the moral and let's get back to the facts.

So, you issue a line of conduct for us. You impose that we be leashed, put on protection gears, controlled and watched. You establish important and severe sanctions. You point us out as being dangerous criminals to be put under preventive control, contemptuously overlooking any form of elementary legal civility, which would imply an offence before any restriction, assuming that people make the distinction between a guide dog, a domestic dog, a guard dog, etc.

Mr. Minister, this is doing prejudice to your intelligence. And to ours, even if we are dogs.

Did you see that your circular, meaning to protect yourselves and us from any violence, ends up giving more strength to the most nauseating arguments... You know, those humans who see in us only dangerous filth?

Filth, huh? So quickly disgraceful...

Compelled to stay in the restricted spaces of your home...
Limited in the most basic right of being dogs...
Subjected to wait at set hours for our basic needs, done in front of everyone, maybe even on an asphalt sidewalk without a single patch of grass.

Offender and filthy, huh?
But, you are pleased with our services in the police corps, aren't you? And our performance in civil protection? And our rescues at sea? And our assistance in the mountains? And our use as guinea pigs for tests of toxicity for your pharmaceutical and cosmetic products?

Let's be serious Mr. Minister... Let's put handcuffs on individuals of the human race to prevent crimes by those delinquents who live among you, who prosper and are hiding?

Do you know, Mr. Minister, that, in Italy, where 60 million people and more than one hundred thousand blind persons live, there are only two schools for our training? Do you know that, every year, no more than 45 requests are answered while the average wait is a couple of years?
An American colleague of mine from Oregon, a certain Arturo I met a couple of weeks ago, told me that in the United States there are more than 20 schools for dog training; in France, 17; in Great Britain, in Germany, everywhere else, there are many more than in Italy...

I would be really happy if you could ensure your commitment to open other schools or that, at least, you bring your support to the two that already exist.

Imagine, I was trained at the school located in Florence, one of the oldest in the world, you know...
I have worked hard during six months, every day, in the company of a sweet and patient trainer. I now work with a man who walks me around continuously: trains, cars, messenger service. With the heat that melts the asphalt underneath my paws, and the hard cold which freezes them. What a stress!!!

All that, and then to be identified as a filthy assassin? To be rudely thrown out of a university class?

I am convinced that your numerous ministerial engagements will not allow time for you to respond to my letter. It doesn't matter, I don't even know how to read. I am writing you my canine thoughts, hoping to offer you some food for thoughts. Otherwise, you know, I am candid and with a pure heart.

I wish you a merry dog wag.

Bologna, 25 October 2003


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