April 18, 2009

Mastiff numbers dwindle in Naples

City officials in Naples, Italy, deny they have spent nearly $786,600 on a breeding program for mastiffs, the stout guard dog that is a status pet of the mafia.

The mastiff, said to date to Roman times, once ranked among Italy's most popular guard dogs.

The dogs, according to legend, were trained by Roman soldiers to run under enemy horses and disembowel them with spiked collars.

In recent years, their numbers have dwindled as reports of dog attacks in Naples have increased, reported ANSA, the Italian news agency.

City officials, however, deny local media reports that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent to fund kennels and a new breeding program to restore the mastiff's numbers, ANSA reported.

Naples Council has never allotted budget funds to safeguard the Mastino Napolitano, deemed at risk of extinction, said a statement from city hall.