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Dog joins human shields in Iraq

A PET dog is set to become possibly the first canine peace activist in the history of international pacifism.

Gustavo, a St Bernard, is the only member of the animal kingdom to have joined the ranks of the "human shields in Iraq".

He arrived in Baghdad after an overland journey from Rome with his owner, Juliana Tucci, an Italian grandmother.

Mrs Tucci, who has seven children and seven grandchildren, wears a black scarf carrying the logo "Human Shields" in red letters. She decided to bring Gustavo to Iraq because of the part St Bernard dogs have played in rescuing people from avalanches.

"He is a symbol of peace," said Mrs Tucci. "This dog saves lives in the mountains, so he is a symbol of saving lives."

The diminutive grandmother said she would stand outside a power station during any allied attack on Iraq. Gustavo will join her.

"Gustavo goes with me everywhere. He is very quiet and polite," said Mrs Tucci, 70. "I am very old and I thought my presence here in Iraq and Gustavo's presence would help to encourage the young people to come here."

But Mrs Tucci's awareness of Islam's alcohol ban prevented her from equipping Gustavo with the traditional tool of the St Bernard. No keg of brandy adorned his collar.

Although many dog owners, in common with millions of other people throughout the western world are against any war with Iraq – certainly one undertaken by America and Britain without UN backing – many would question the sense of bringing an innocent and unknowing pet into the conflict.

Nicola Finch, a dog owner from Doncaster, South Yorkshire said: "I’m against the war with Iraq, because there’s no evidence that the Iraqis have any weapons of mass destruction.

But although I can decide whether I’d be a human shield in the event of any attack on Iraq, my dog does not and I think it’s irresponsible to put a pet into that kind of danger. It’s not like the poor dog has any choice in the matter."