Cruel and unusual.
"Saturday is "black cat day," in Italy, an initiative by an animal rights group to try to stop the killing of thousands of the cats by superstitious citizens convinced they bring bad luck.
Black cats have a bad name in many countries, but nowhere more so than Italy, where a papal edict in the middle ages declared they were instruments of the devil. Black cats were thrown into the fires to join witches burned at the stake.
The Italian Association for the Defense of Animals and the Environment (AIDAA) estimates 60,000 were killed last year, to ward off bad luck but also for use in satanic rites and in cosmetics laboratories where black fur gives the best results.
"We want to halt this massacre, educate people and restore dignity to black cats," said AIDAA President Lorenzo Croce.
The group has set up 200 information points in towns and cities around Italy, where passers-by will be given literature on black cats, asked to sign a petition and urged to adopt one of the 5,000 in cat refuges.
AIDAA has also sent a letter to Pope Benedict, a well known cat lover. "It would be great if he would speak out in recognition of our initiative and say the prejudice against black cats is a lot of nonsense,"
Okay, there is no accounting for the stupidity of people, and that's a fact. But killing an animal purely on the grounds of its coat colour? Fucking ridiculous.
But that's not all, oh no.
Observe some more.
Dog owners in Turin will be fined up to 500 euros ($650) if they don't walk their pets at least three times a day, under a new law from the city's council.
People will also be banned from dyeing their pets' fur or "any form of animal mutilation" for merely aesthetic motives such as docking dogs' tails, under the law about to be passed in the northern Italian city.
"In Turin it will be illegal to turn one's dog into a ridiculous fluffy toy," the city's La Stampa daily reported.
Italians can already be fined up to 10,000 euros and spend a year in prison if found guilty of torturing or abandoning their pets, but Turin's new rules go into much greater detail.
Dogs may be led for walks by people on bicycles, the rules say, "but not in a way that would tire the animal too much".
Italy considers itself an animal-loving nation and in many cities stray cats are protected by law. Still some 150,000 pet dogs and 200,000 cats are abandoned in Italy every year, according to animal rights groups.
To enforce the law, Turin police would rely largely on the help of tipsters spotting cruel treatment by their neighbours, La Stampa reported.
It said the 20-page rulebook gives Turin the most stringent animal protection rules in the country. It even bans fairgrounds from giving away goldfish in plastic bags."
And so the pendulum swings the other way. Fish in a bag, bad, killing black cats, cultural.
Actually I'm glad to see docking on there. Nothing divides dog people more than a debate on docking. I know a girl with an uncut boxer, and he has a fine tail and floppy ears. My own doberman had a docked tail, but I got him that way and never really gave it much thought until years after when it suddenly dawned on me that slicing the tail of a tiny puppy to achieve a look was pretty unreasonable behaviour. And I really hate ear docking, removing skin and re-stitching just to make a dog's ears stand up. I don't get it at all.
And speaking of cats, I must corral Puddy and take her to the vets for an ear clean. Ghastly business, they've got to knock her out to do it and at her age that scares me.