I speak for the STRAYS
The case of the 40 poisoned dogs in Sicily shook designer Elisabetta Franchi to the core. She has called for the Regions to take on the matter of stray dogs because, as she tells Grazia, everyone should join in the fight for animals.
The poisoning of nearly 40 stray dogs in a quarter of Sciacca in Sicily a few days ago would have received mention in a few news articles and then soon be forgotten. Instead, she turned it into a national case. We are talking about Elisabetta Franchi, who in the letter she had published last week in several newspapers defines herself as a designer and animal rights activist. Her message starts: “If they could only speak …” and goes on to launch an appeal to the president of the Region of Sicily, Nello Musumeci “to make efforts to deal with stray animals more efficient so that we can put an end, once and for all, to this butchery.” That’s right, because according to experts, the number of stray dogs has doubled over the last five years to reach 700,000. In Northern Italy the animals housed in shelters are almost all sterilised and 50% find a new owner as opposed to the 3.3% in the South. To raise awareness, the designer participated in a march organized in Milan last Sunday to show solidarity with the exterminated dogs.

Why did you decide to intervene now?
You have to do something before the news fades from the spotlight. I sent a strong message during Fashion Week, which seemed a frivolous gesture to some, even though it wasn’t. I filled the window of my shop in the centre of Milan with a poster depicting cadavers of these creatures and expressing my indignation, and then I wrote a letter to the newspapers.

Some claim that people are profiting from the subsidies to fight pet abandonment or to manage dog shelters. It that true?
Government funds are issued, but it isn’t clear how they’re used. This mass poisoning in Sciacca is not an isolated episode. The dogs are tortured, beaten and killed especially in the South, where municipalities and regions receive money, but fail to do the only thing that can solve the problem of stray animals: sterilise them.

In your letter you mention Sardinia, Campania and Puglia. Why is that?
I may risk being considered discriminatory, but the problem is in the South. In the North, if you see a stray dog, you call the shelter and someone answers. There, on the other hand, the dogs are chased away; just the sight of them is unbearable.

This is not the first time that you’ve mobilized in defence of animals. In the past, you posed nude with some of your seven dogs in support of ENPA (the animal protection association), and your company employees can bring their dogs to work. Where did this commitment come from?
From the love and respect I hold for these creatures that have no words to speak. We can’t pretend not to see or to know anymore. Even I used angora before understanding that it is obtained by skinning the animal alive. I felt it a duty to communicate my indignation, and when I started to speak out, some people in the fashion world advised against it at the risk of losing customers, the fur lovers maybe. But my ethical commitment is also one of the reasons for my success. In 2011 we decided to go “fur-free”; Giorgio Armani followed our lead and now Gucci.

Do your two children, Ginevra, 11, and Leone, 4, love animals as much as you?
They’ve grown up alongside my dogs, who watched over their cribs. One of the first things I taught them was that animals are not playthings.

How did you choose your seven dogs?
They are all from the dog shelter. I think that today with the shelters full of creatures in need of a home, it’s insulting to buy one.