Virtually every country in the world has a stray dog problem. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that there are over 200 million stray dogs worldwide.
But for Holland, it’s a different story. That’s because the country recently became the first nation with zero stray dogs.
Holland is making history, and fortunately, they didn’t do it by culling these animals. Instead, its government implemented an effective animal welfare program supported by legislators, public health officials, and animal advocates.
The country has dealt with the stray dog dilemma for nearly 200 years—longer than almost any other country. But centuries ago, this wasn’t even a problem.
During the 1800s, dog ownership was a status symbol. Almost every household had at least one dog, if not more. But rabies broke out in Holland in the 1900s, leading thousands of citizens to abandon their canines.
They left them on the streets to fend for themselves out of fear of rabies. This event led to a drastic spike in the number of homeless pets in the country.
After more than 200 years, Dutch officials decided to tackle this issue.
Public health officials, legislators, and animal advocates gathered to come up with solutions to Holland’s growing stray dog population. And they had an ambitious goal—to bring it down to zero.
Their first step was implementing a sterilization program throughout the country. Homeless dogs were multiplying rapidly, and their procreation had to be controlled as soon as possible. Else, the number of strays will only continue to rise.
Within months, they spayed and neutered over 75% of Holland’s stray dogs. This significantly lessened the number of stray puppies being born.
Next, all strays went through a veterinary check-up where they were brought up to date on their vaccines. This is a necessary step in preventing the spread of contagious diseases such as rabies and parvovirus.
Next, Holland’s officials enforced an animal welfare legislation. The new laws granted all animals, including stray dogs, the right to live a “quality” life.
And to encourage their citizens to take these new laws seriously, anyone who broke them will be subject to $16,000 fines and up to three years in prison.
The legislation also put a tax hike on store-bought pets to promote pet adoption from shelters and rescues.
A domestic animal task force was also organized to enforce the new laws and ensure that there will always be help available to investigate reports of any individual breaking them. If necessary, the task force was also granted the right to remove any animal in a dangerous living situation.
Marianne Thieme, the Party for the Animals spokesperson, said:
“Animals — and our entire society — need the animal police. There is a direct link between violence against animals and violence against humans.”
Lastly, Dutch officials campaigned tirelessly across the country to promote pet adoption instead of pet shopping. Doing so decreased the popularity of puppy mills and dog breeders in Holland.
Now, when someone brings a rescued/adopted puppy home, they know they’ve contributed to the nationwide mission of bringing the number of Holland’s stray dogs down to zero. This made the citizens feel included in the fight against pet homelessness.
As of now, over 90% of Holland’s population live with happy and healthy dogs. Because of their cooperation, the entire country managed to save over a million neglected, abused, and homeless dogs.
Holland’s success in eradicating its stray dog population proves that great things can happen when an entire country works towards achieving a common goal. Hopefully, we see the U.S. and other nations follow suit.
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