James Guiliani, Mob Enforcer Turned Animal Rescuer

James Guiliani spoke with Matthew Sardo about his new book “Dogfella” and how everything in his life has lead to this moment.

How did an addicted ex–con on the verge of suicide become a caring member of the community? With a little help from a Shih Tzu named Bruno.

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James “Head” Guiliani, a confidante of the Gotti regime, was arrested and jailed on a weapons charge. After his release, he fell back into alcohol and drug addiction—until, one day, he came across an abandoned, abused Shih Tzu in the street. He rescued the dog, whom he lovingly named Bruno, and, in the process, turned his own life around.

“Dogfella” recounts the story of Guiliani’s life, from his involvement in street gangs and the infamous Gotti crime family to his incarceration and eventual redemption through animal welfare. Guiliani’s new career has led him to save pit bulls from a dog-fighting ring and drive through six-foot snowdrifts to reach 200 cats stranded at a Long Island sanctuary.

“In this funny, touching tale, a wise guy barks back at his addictions by rescuing a Shih Tzu named Bruno. Guaranteed to warm every animal lover’s heart.”— Bruce Goldstein, author of Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac

James Guiliani is the fifth of six kids born to a religious, working-class Italian American family. He turned to petty crime in high school and was the enforcer for mob boss John Gotti of the Gambino crime family by his mid-twenties. After serving time both in prison and in odd jobs, he now spends his days caring for and rescuing animals with his wife, Lena.

Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.