Italy "dog and cat tax" muzzled after uproar

ROME Fri May 18, 2012 3:23pm EDT

A dog sits on a sun chair at a beach for dogs on the Tiber river in Rome August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

A dog sits on a sun chair at a beach for dogs on the Tiber river in Rome August 19, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Helgren

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ROME (Reuters) - A proposal to levy a tax on cats and dogs that stunned Italy on Friday turned out to be all bark and no bite after a wave of popular anger saw it withdrawn on the same day it was made public.

Italy was abuzz for hours after local media reported that a parliamentary commission had proposed a tax on domestic "animals of affection" to raise revenue for debt-strapped cities and towns.

Protests were voiced by everyone from animal rights groups - who said it would prompt more people to abandon animals - to politicians who called it everything from "grotesque" to "surreal" to "idiotic" to "shameful".

There was so much reaction - all of it incredulous - that one Italian agency ran nearly 40 news items on the proposal in less than four hours.

The proposal was withdrawn by early Friday evening however, and it seemed everyone on the commission where it was discussed was denying its paternity.

"The only thing that's left to tax are wives and children," said parliamentarian Domenico Scilipoti.

Italy, like many other countries across the euro zone, is struggling to revive its economy and reduce its public debt, a predicament that has prompted the country's lawmakers to try to dream up new revenue-raising measures.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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