Former mafia hardman James Guiliani runs a non-profit, no-kill home for special needs animals who could not otherwise be placed in a forever home.
Goodfella to Dogfella: how an abandoned Shi Tzu softened the heart of mob enforcer
Imagine a real-life Tony Soprano — but a Tony Soprano who turned his back on organised crime and chose instead to rescue abandoned animals in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn — and you’ve got James Guiliani. It’s a tough and thankless job that’s earned him the legendary title of "The Dogfather". The Nowhere Men spent a day with him.
Guiliani brings mob-style intensity towards his own unique brand of animal rescue
James “Head” Guiliani is the fifth of six children born to a religious, working-class Italian-American family. He first turned to petty crime in high school, and would become the enforcer for mob boss John Gotti of the Gambino crime family by his mid-20s. After serving time both in prison and in odd jobs, Guiliani, along with his wife, Lena, now spends his days caring for and rescuing some of the most difficult to re-home animals in New York City.
How he went from being a Goodfella to a Dogfella came about unexpectedly when an abandoned, abused and very sickly seven-pound Shih Tzu licked his face and lips after being untied from a parking meter. Up until that point, drug-addicted ex-con, Guiliani, who had been with the Gambino mob, stole from drug dealers and sold cocaine and steroids to feed his own drug and alcohol addictions.
‘Bruno’, the new name Guiliani gave the poorly little dog, proved to be the final cure for the gangster’s demons. Under all that matted hair, dirt and skin crawling with maggots and covered with tumors, was a kindred spirit that stole Guiliani’s heart and set him on a new path.
Keno’s Animal Sanctuary
Keno’s Animal Sanctuary is a Brooklyn-based, non-profit, no-kill rescue organisation that provides animal shelter and adoption services as well as the long term housing and care for special needs animals who could not otherwise be placed in a forever home. On their Facebook page, Guiliani states:
Keno’s Animal Sanctuary is named in loving memory of my first love Keno. My little man was abused and neglected, so as a fifteen-year-old I followed my heart and stole him from his abusers. Because he was kicked and beaten he suffered many health issues throughout his life. He was paralysed from the hips down from age 9 to passing at 18. Many heartless vets had no answers but to put him down. I never gave up on Keno and he lived a beautiful life to the end. In his memory we strive to help any animal from abuse and abandonment. At current Keno’s Animal Sanctuary is a small establishment but our goal is to open a larger sanctuary so we can give a forever home to those deemed as unadoptable and find homes for those that are.
Donate direct now to Keno's Animal Sanctuary with GoFundMe
James and Lena run the sanctuary from their own pocket and public donations. Click the link to visit their GoFundMe campain to learn more and to donate.