There are around 200 million stray dogs worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. Impressively, the Netherlands is not part of this statistic. It has become the first country in the world without any stray dogs! 👏
Dutch people love their pets. 🐶 Puppies are whisked around the city in bike baskets, most cafés and restaurants are dog-friendly, and small pets can ride on public transport for a reduced price.
Once, I even looked after a dog that had different flavoured meals for each night of the week (unreal, I know…). But this dog-loving atmosphere evidently pays off!
The history of stray dogs in the Netherlands
Owning dogs used to be a sign of status in the Netherlands. Upper-class people owned dogs as pets for sporting purposes, and the poorer masses owned mongrels (mutts) for working purposes.
Many Dutch paintings depict the dogs of ye olden times, such as this one by Joseph Stevens:
Given its intrinsic link to social status, there was a massive dog population in the Netherlands in the 19th century.
However, an outbreak of rabies caused widespread fear of contamination — leading to many owners abandoning their (possibly) disease-ridden pets.
As a result, society’s perspective on the human-dog relationship shifted. The health of a dog came to be seen as a reflection on the well-being of the owner. 🧍🐕
During this time, the Dutch government also created a dog tax (hondenbelasting) in an attempt to regulate the number of stray dogs in the Netherlands.
Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect: there were even more stray dogs, as many people could no longer afford (or didn’t want to pay) to keep their pet dogs.
The Animal Protection Act
The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals — the country’s first animal protection agency — was founded in 1864 in The Hague. A century later, the Animal Protection Act came into effect.
The act stated that it’s forbidden for an owner to abuse any animal. Doing so is even punishable, with a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of €16,750. 😱
What do we mean by “no stray dogs”?
The term “stray dog” can mean many different things:
- Free-roaming dogs with an owner: they have an owner, but the owner lets the dog run partially free throughout the day
- Free-roaming dogs without an owner: dogs that are abandoned by their owner
- Community dogs: dogs that don’t have one owner but are cared for by a community
- Feral dogs: dogs that are not cared for by anyone and survive on their own
Stray dogs are commonly unwanted, as they tend to spread disease, fleas, and mess with human garbage (among other things). Nowadays, there are hardly any stray dogs in the Netherlands, so the country is hailed for having eradicated the issue. 🙌
How did the Netherlands manage to eradicate its stray dog problem?
Not through euthanasia! Hurray! 🎉
The Dutch achieved it through the CNVR programme (Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate, and Return), a nationwide, government-funded sterilisation programme. The World Animal Protection Agency believes it’s the most effective way to combat a stray dog population.
Additionally, many municipalities spike taxes for store-bought dogs to incentivise people to adopt homeless dogs from shelters instead. 💖
Further, the Netherlands set up an animal police force monitoring crimes against animals. Moreover, the force also rescues animals in trouble.
Marianne Thieme, the leader of the Party for the Animals, thinks there is a correlation between how society treats its animals with how it treat its civilians. She says, “there is a direct link between violence against animals and violence against humans.”
These days, about one in five Dutchies owns a dog after taking a million of them off the streets. 💖
Have you adopted a furry companion yourself? What do you think of this little slice of Dutch history about stray dogs in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019, and was fully updated in July 2022 for your reading pleasure.