The veterinary vision on stray dog management


− In several European regions, in urban as well as rural areas, large numbers of dogs stray freely. Although generally called “stray dogs1 ”, distinct categories of dogs can be identified, such as dogs with an owner, dogs without an owner, dogs abandoned by their owner, dogs that were never owned, etc.

− These stray dogs can pose serious risks for animal health and animal welfare as well as for public health and welfare.

− A wide range of pathogens, influenced by region and habitat, can be hosted, carried around and transmitted to other animals and to people. Diseases that can be spread in this way vary from relatively mild ones that might go unnoticed to severe chronic disorders (e.g. echinococcosis) and fatal diseases (e.g. rabies!).

− Stray dogs can be vicious and attack other animals including livestock, and people. Moreover stray animals are frequently involved in road accidents.

− Animal health and welfare can be seriously affected, directly when the stray animals themselves live under poor conditions (e.g. hunger, chronic skin disorders, lack of shelter, etc) and indirectly when inappropriate dog population control measures (e.g. shooting, poisoning, inhumane handling) are used. The health and welfare of other animals, like sheep and goats, can be endangered by stray dogs attacking them.

− Various reasons lay behind the large numbers of stray dogs. Cultural and socio-economic reasons, insufficient knowledge and understanding of prevention and control measures, lack of communication and coordination amongst stakeholders and decision makers and many more play a role.

− The way stray dog problems are addressed varies a lot. At EU level there is no legal framework or guidelines. Decisions about legislation and enforcement measures fall under the competence of the Member States. In most countries the issue is handled at municipality level, often without much coordination in and between municipalities.

− The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in Chapter 7.7 of the Terrestrial animal Health Code1 , recognizes the importance of controlling dog populations without causing unnecessary animal suffering and gives recommendations for the prevention of zoonotic diseases and dog population control.

− Evidence based knowledge and understanding of best practices in the field of dog population management is growing but still limited.

− As a well educated professional, bound by a professional oath, working according to a professional code of conduct and codes of Good Veterinary Practice, licensed and supervised by an authority (veterinary statutory body), the veterinarian has an important role to play in the prevention and control of stray dog problems. In different positions and at many levels – for example as clinician, state officer, policy advisor, research worker, teacher, etc. – veterinarians have the ability to contribute to prevention and control of stray dogs.

− The European veterinary profession, here represented by FVE, UEVP and FECAVA, cares for animals and people. Veterinarians continuously strive to promote the health and welfare of animals and public health.