Holland has implemented an animal welfare program that has set them to become the first country with a zero population of stray dogs.
This is amazing news for a couple of reasons:
1. It’s proof that it is, in fact, possible to successfully manage the problem of pet overpopulation in communities without culling, to promote rescue and adoption over puppy mill breeders, and to ensure our furry friends have a safe home with a great quality of life.
2. My friend Jay, an American expat who has lived in Amsterdam for several years now has yet another reason to be insufferably smug about how great it is to live in Holland.
From the moment he left San Diego for the wonderful Dutch paradise, it’s been nothing but, “Life is so much better in Holland!” or “Holland is so environmentally friendly!” or “Holland is so progressive!” or “Everyone rides bikes in Holland!”
Now, it seems, Holland is better at animal welfare. And I’m so not mad about it.
This is an incredible feat considering that the country, along with every other populated region in the world, has been plagued with stray dogs for hundreds of years now. So much so, that the World Health Organization reported an estimation of ~200 million stray dogs worldwide.
The U.S. has also been experimenting with ways to curb the ongoing increase in stray dogs wandering the nation. But because shelters are not priorities for local governments over police and fire departments, education, parks and sanitation, there has never really been focused effort and resources to address homeless pets. Just sayin.
Holland, though, has broken a world’s first record – like a boss – by completely eradicating homelessness for stray dogs despite the fact that they have been dealing with more stray dogs than almost any other country for nearly 200 years now. In the 1800s, dog ownership was a symbol of status, and so just about every single home had at least one dog, if not more.
When rabies broke out in the country in the 1900s, though, thousands of people abandoned their dogs, leaving them to fend for themselves as strays out of fear of rabies. This led to one of the most rapid increases in pet homelessness history.
Now, over 200 years later in the 21st century, Dutch officials finally decided to take serious action. Many people gathered together from all walks of life, including legislators, public health officials, and animal advocates. Together, they began brainstorming on the best, most effective way to get their stray dog population down to zero.
The first step in this plan was sterilization. They enforced an uncompromising sterilization program throughout the country. Working quickly, the country spayed and neutered over 75% of its stray dog population in a matter of months. This had an immediate and obvious effect, greatly minimizing the number of stray puppies being born.
After each sterilization, all strays underwent a veterinary check-up and were brought up to date on their vaccines. A necessary step in stopping the spread of communicable diseases like rabies or parvovirus.
Holland’s next step in its plan of action was its largest hurdle; legislation.
The country started implementing animal welfare legislation that granted all animals, including stray dogs, the right to living a healthy, “quality” life. To encourage people to take the new legislation seriously, the laws came attached with enforcements like $16,000 dollar fines and up to 3-year prison sentences for anyone that dared to break it.
The legislation also called for a tax hike on retail store-bought pets.
The increase was erected with the intention of promoting pet adoption via animal shelters and rescues, rather than encouraging breeders to add more pups into the mix.
The country then recruited a special domestic animal task force specifically set up to enforce the new animal welfare laws. This was so that there would always be help available to investigate reports of dog owners breaking the new laws. If it’s needed, the task force will also remove the animal from any dangerous living situation.
Last but definitely not least, Dutch officials campaigned tirelessly across the nation to promote pet adoption rather than pet-shopping. Doing so instantly made purchasing dogs from puppy mills and breeders the least cool thing a person could possibly do in Holland, lessening the popularity of pet-store purchases. Now, when someone brings a dog home, they are rescuing that dog from a life on the streets, in a kennel, or worse, of abuse and neglect.
This gave Holland’s citizens the inclusive feeling of fighting pet homelessness with the government, rather than against it. As of current, over 90% of Holland’s population have happy, healthy dogs living with them. Collectively, they’ve saved over one million neglected, abused, and stray dogs.
In light of all this, I resolve to roll my eyes less when Jay brags about his new home country. That’s a lie. I won’t really roll my eyes less. I’ll just roll them with less contempt, and little more jealousy – because hi, Holland is awesome, and I kind of want to retire there now. Don’t tell Jay I said that last part though. He’ll just gloat.