Italy’s “Hero Dog” Saved Countless Earthquake Victims. On Saturday, He Was Poisoned.

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When a massive earthquake flattened the Italian town of Amatrice in 2016, killing almost 300 people, a young German Shepherd named Kaos was one of the first responders to the scene. Along with his human, Fabiano Ettore, Kaos tirelessly dug through the rubble searching for victims, many of whom were pulled to safety owing to his efforts. When an aftershock ravaged a nearby town months later, Kaos and Ettore once again fled right into the danger, leading to Kaos’ eventual recognition as Italy’s “Hero Dog.”

So the country was rightfully shocked and enraged to find that their national hero had been poisoned over the weekend. According to Ettore, who posted a heartfelt tribute on Facebook, Kaos was found dead in their garden on Saturday morning, even though he’d previously been in good health. Ettore recalled hearing Kaos bark a couple of times in the early morning, which might have encouraged a neighbor to through a poisoned bait into Ettore’s yard. Cruel as it sounds, poisoning dogs isn’t exactly rare in Italy, where one 2014 study found a “low level of social tolerance to neighbors’ dogs” in urban areas, where poisoned baits are common. Upon studying over 800 deceased canines in Rome, researchers identified poisoning as the second-leading cause of their deaths, affecting 17 percent of the animals.

If there’s one upside to this horrific story, it’s that Italy might finally be ready to shore up its lax animal cruelty laws. “Kaos’ death has touched the conscience of the Italian people,” one lawmaker, Michela Brambilla, told the Associated Press, sharing her hopes that this tragedy would encourage the rest of Italy’s cabinet to support her drive for stronger animal cruelty laws. The Italian police have also opened an investigation, which will hopefully catch the perpetrator and send a strong message that such a barbaric practice will no longer be tolerated.

Ettore’s heartfelt tribute to his beloved dog included this video of Kaos racing to save earthquake victims!

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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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