The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 200 million stray dogs worldwide. Though some will say fixing this is impossible, Holland’s stray dogs will tell you otherwise. The Dutch nation has become the first country to successfully eradicate dog homelessness. This is how they did it.
Holland’s Stray Dogs Now All Have Happy Homes
Holland might not be the first country you think of when you think about places with homeless dog problems, but they certainly did. In the 1800s, having a dog was a status symbol in Dutch homes. The more dogs you had, the better. An outbreak of rabies in the 1900s, however, caused many people to abandon their pets, leaving them to fend for themselves on the streets. (1)
Roaming free, these animals of course mated and multiplied. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Holland’s stray dogs were everywhere. Finally, officials decided it was time to do something about the problem. (1, 2)
It Takes a Team
To find a solution to the stray dog problem without culling (selective slaughter to reduce an animal population), a team of people came together. This team included (1, 2):
- Public Health Officials
- Animal Advocates
Working together, they came up with a comprehensive plan to make Holland completely free of stray dogs.
Step 1: Sterilization
The largest contributing factor to the proliferation of the homeless dog population in Holland was procreation. Two dogs have a litter of puppies, the puppies that survive into adulthood then go off and have their own litters, and the cycle continues.
Holland implemented a strict sterilization program for all stray dogs across the country. In just a few months over 75% of this population had been neutered so that far fewer puppies were being born on the streets.
Each neutered dog was then put through a comprehensive check-up and received all necessary vaccinations that they did not receive as puppies. This was to control the spread of rabies and other diseases. (1, 2)
Step 2: Legislation
Legislation to protect dogs and other animals was a necessary step in preventing dogs from being abandoned and abused.
An animal welfare legislation was put into effect that granted all animals, including strays, the right to live a quality life. If anyone is caught breaking the new laws, they could be fined up to $16,000 and spend up to three years behind bars. (1, 2)
Of course, you need a team of people to enforce the new laws or it won’t have an impact. For this, Holland created a special domestic animal task force to enforce the new laws and investigate reports of anyone who may be breaking them. (1, 2)
Legislation was also put into place which increased the taxes on store-bought pets. The goal here was to encourage people to adopt instead of buying from a pet store or breeder and to make operations such as puppy mills less lucrative for people to run. (1, 2)
Step 3: Campaign
The last objective, of course, was to find homes for all the formerly homeless dogs. The Dutch put on country-wide campaigns that encouraged people to adopt instead of purchasing from a breeder. (1, 2) They showed people that when you adopt a dog you are rescuing it from a life of abuse, neglect, and hunger. You are giving it something that it was previously unable to have: a loving home.
We’re All In This Together
The thing that made this campaign so successful was that the government and the citizens worked together to solve this problem, rather than against each other. Today, 90% of Holland’s population own dogs that are loved and cared for, and over 1 million dogs have been rescued from the streets. (1, 2)
Congratulations, Holland! Perhaps other places in the world can take note and follow suit.