Ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is backing a new pro-animal rights movement in his latest political comeback - and it's not the first time he's used dogs to appeal to voters.
The 80-year-old spoke about his own "happy family" of dogs, horses, sheep and the other animals which live with him at his Milan villa, while discussing the recently founded "Movement for Animals Italian TV.
The movement was founded in early May 2017 by Michela Vittoria Brambilla, an MP for Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, and the four-time prime minister has offered to lend it his full support as a founding member.
"Animals know how to love, how to be friends, and they will never leave you," Berlusconi told the Rete 4 programmeDalla parte degli animali('On the animals' side'), which is hosted by Brambilla. Berlusconi was filmed playing and running with his own pets in the grounds of his villa while sharing his support for the new movement.
The billionaire cited surveys that show 92 percent of Italians consider dogs to be their family members, with one in four people letting their pups sleep under the covers in their bed.
He added that he had asked women what they would do if forced to choose between their husband and pet dog - with almost three quarters saying they'd take their dog's side.
Berlusconi himself has 23 dogs as well as larger animals living in the park of his expansive villa in Arcore, Lombardy.
The main goal of the new movement is to get animals recognized in Italy's constitution as sentient beings, a change of status that would allow the law to inflict harsher punishments on those who mistreat or kill animals.