In a commitment to provide ongoing coverage of animal sanctuaries worldwide, Pacific Roots Magazine brings readers an interview with Sara D’Angelo, founder of Italy based Vitadacani Onlus. D’Angelo founded Vitadacani in 1992 as a small volunteering association, helping stray or abandoned dogs by finding foster homes or shelters that would be able to look after them and then arranging suitable adoptions. D’Angelo presented the project of the sanctuary and shelter and won a tender to build a brand-new dog shelter in Arese that was completed around 2005 and 2006, establishing their own space – a permanent home for animals in their care.
D’Angelo notes that “saving dogs for us was fantastic but we wanted to extend the help we could give to all animals”. They were already rescuing farm animals and finding them foster homes but when they managed to move to their current location in Magnago, it opened up even more space to accommodate their growing needs.
Does the name of the sanctuary have a special meaning?
Sara: Yes, in Italian Vita Da Cani is an expression that literally translates to “a dog’s life”. It refers to a difficult and poor life, comparing one’s situation to a dog’s life. Our meaning is the exact opposite though, dogs and all animals that are our guests are loved and truly well looked after. It’s a bit of a play on the original saying.
How many animals were part of the sanctuary in the beginning and how many live there now?
Sara: At the very beginning there were less than 10 animals. The number steadily increased and today there are around 200 animals. We have cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, pigeons and many many more species.
Can you share more about the various programs and events at Vitadacani Onlus?
Sara: On a yearly basis we organise one of the biggest Vegan festivals in the north of Italy, MiVeg. Generally, around 10.000 people visit us during the 2 day festival. We also organise a one week workshop to “teach” people who are interested in opening their own sanctuary all they need to know. We also attend a lot events with our our delicious food and merchandise stall. During the colder months we organise a monthly benefit dinner (vegan of course) to raise money. Generally, around 80/100 come to that and we all squeeze into one of the conference rooms at the shelter. And then in the warmer months we organise picnics at the sanctuary, we have hundreds of people visit to see our animals and spend a day in nature.
What are tours like at Vitadacani?
Sara: We generally organise guided tours once we have a number of confirmed participants on weekends. We walk you through the Sanctuary and introduce you to all our animal friends and tell you about their history and past, how they got here and what their unique personalities are like. We also organise children’s birthday parties here and small gatherings. It is important for us to not only save these animals, but to communicate to the public that a different world is possible and necessary. Our aim is to create awareness through people meeting these sentient beings, and understanding that we all have a right to live free.
How does the sanctuary sustain itself economically?
Sara: The Sanctuary survives solely on fund raising and donations. Unfortunately, Italian legislation does not provide financial support for non-profit organisations.
What is the importance of a vegan ethos at Vitadacani Onlus?
Sara: For us it’s fundamental. Vitadacani is a vegan and antispeciesist non-profit organization that fights for animal liberation.
We oppose abandonment, straying, vivisection, animal importation, exportation and trafficking and any kind of animal exploitation and abuse.
This is why every event we organise also brings this message along with it. We prepare vegan food to inspire and create awareness on the injustice of animal exploitation. We all deserve to live freely and not in a cage.
Visit Vitadacani Onlus online at https://www.vitadacani.org
Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk