The World Health Organisation estimates there are around 200 million stray dogs worldwide. However, the Netherlands is not contributing to this statistic as 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 cafes and restaurants are dog-friendly, small pets can ride on public transport for a reduced price and I once looked after a dog which had different flavoured meals for each night of the week (unreal I know..). But all this dog-loving evidently pays off!

Read this article if you need any information about owning a pet in the Netherlands or this one if you’re relocating and taking your pet with you. 

History of stray dogs in the Netherlands

Owning dogs used to be a sign of status in the Netherlands. Upper-class people owned dogs for pets or sporting purposes, and the poorer masses owned mongrels for working purposes. Many paintings depict this, such as this one by Joseph Stevens:

Stray dogs in the Netherlands: Dog Carrying Dinner to its Master by Joseph Stevens. Source: Trzęsacz on Wikipedia

Given its intrinsic link to social status, there was a massive dog population in the Netherlands during the 19th century. However, an outbreak of rabies led to widespread fear of contamination which led to many owners abandoning their disease-ridden pets. This created a shift in the societies’ perspective on the human-dog relationship, where 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 in an attempt to regulate the number of stray dogs in the Netherlands but this had the opposite effect: it produced more stray dogs as many people couldn’t afford (or didn’t want to) to keep their pet dogs.

In 1864, the first animal protection agency was set up in The Hague. A century later, the animal protection act came into force. It is now forbidden for an owner to abuse any animal and doing so is punishable with a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of €16,750.

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Source: isakarakus on Pixabay

Nowadays, about one in five homes own a pet dog.

What do we mean by “no stray dogs”?

The “stray dog” term is broken down into four components. These are:

1. Free-roaming dogs with an owner: They have an owner but the owner lets the dog run partially free throughout the day
2. Free-roaming dogs without an owner: Dogs that are abandoned by owners
3. Community dogs: They don’t have one owner but are cared for by a community
4. Feral dogs: The dog is not cared for by anyone and survives on its own

There are hardly any stray dogs in the Netherlands which is why they are hailed as having eradicated the issue.

How did the Netherlands manage to eradicate its stray dog problem?

Not through euthanasia! Hurray!

They achieved this through the CNVR programme (Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return) which is a nation-wide, government-funded sterilisation programme. The World Animal Protection Agency believe is the most effective way to combat a stray dog population.

Many municipalities spike taxes for store-bought dogs which incentivised people to adopt homeless dogs stuck in shelters instead.

An animal police force was also set up to monitor crimes against animals and rescue animals in trouble. Marianne Thieme, the leader of the Party for the Animals, thinks there is a correlation between how society treats their animals with how they treat their civilians. She believes, “there is a direct link between violence against animals and violence against humans.”

Source: paulicek0 on Pixabay

These days, about 90% of Dutchies own a dog, having taken a million of them off the streets.

Have you adopted a furry companion yourself? Send us some cute doggo pictures, because you can never see enough of them! What do you think of this little slice of Dutch history about stray dogs in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

11 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article, In India we have millions of stray dogs. Government have no time to restrict that. Thousands of dogs died in road accident daily. Stray dogs are biting hundreds of people daily.

    However, your article Is nice.

    Thanks a lot.

  2. Wait Germany doesn’t have stray dogs either. At least I’ve never seen or heard of any and I’ve lived here for 17 years.

  3. Looks like they managed to get this far by (mostly) non-violent means. Really happy to hear that about my country!

  4. We have adopted two stray dogs, one from Romania and one from the Greek Island Zakynthos.

    But to read you other article:
    “The amount of homeless people in the Netherlands has doubled in 10 years
    By Freya Sawbridge -August 23, 2019”
    Is very disturbing!
    I love dogs and I’m glad to read that the Netherlands are taking such good care of the animals. But what about the homeless people?

  5. For the one who asked about shelters ys we have them ( “dorks” are everywhere and also some cant have their pet anymore ) it are nice places with softbeds playgrounds and medcare we dont kill !
    We’ve animal ambulance in all our regions free to call when one sees a wounded animal ( can be even a bird ) or accident animals involved

  6. Of course the first-world countries don’t have stray dogs when they killed most of them at one or another point. Netherlands just did that way earlier than others. However, the way it is now IS commendable, but again in poorer countries, there’s not enough for (for most people) more important problems, let alone paying for animal police that would check up on every household to make sure animals are not abused. 🙁

    Also, a feral dog is not only a dog that survives on its own, it’s also a dog that has gone back into a wild-animal mode and would attack if it feels threatened. I have seen a lot of dogs on their own, but they weren’t aggressive (furthermore I have seen and am seeing more aggressive owner-dogs, especially the small annoying ones). A lot of them can come back to being great dogs if rehabilitated with lots of love, patience and effort. Stop stigmatising them.

  7. I agree that the “stray dog” categories suggested here are a bit off. A free roaming dog with an owner isn’t stray, it is just allowed to roam. A stray dog is a dog that doesn’t have an owner, but isn’t feral. Stray dogs live in human communities (villages, towns, urban), while feral dogs live in the wild.

    Also, the claim that Netherland is the “first” or “only” country to have no stray dogs is simply not true. There are other countries that have no stray dog populations, for a start most if not all the Scandinavian countries haven’t had any stray dog populations forever

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