The Netherlands Just Became First County With No Stray Dogs

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock

With an estimated 200 million stray dogs worldwide it’s clear that the issue of abandoned pets is a major problem for many countries across the globe. Except for the Netherlands! The European country is the first in the world to have almost no stray dogs – and it’s not because of euthanasia, as some may think. It took years of clever strategies with animal welfare at the forefront before they came to where they are now, and now it’s clearer than ever that other countries should take a page out of Netherlands’ book, too.

For centuries, dogs were seen as a symbol of social status in the Netherlands, being owned by nobles and upper classes, but that all changed with a rabies outbreak in the 19th century. Almost overnight, the perception shifted and the elites didn’t want to be associated with a “disease-ridden” pet, which resulted in mass abandonment of dogs, leaving them to fend for themselves on the streets of the cities. In an effort to remedy this, the government issued a pet tax, but it backfired, resulting in even more strays as people were unable to pay up. Partly as a result of their, now alarming, stray problem, the first animal protection service in the world was formed in Hague, Netherlands in 1864, which set the path for future animal welfare laws and actions that have completely reshaped the country’s perspective on pet ownership and welfare. Nowadays, animal abuse is punishable with up to 3 years in prison and a fine upwards of $18,000 – it's clear that Nederlanders don't view animal mistreatment lightly.

So, after all that, how did they manage to become the first country in the world that doesn't have stray dogs anymore? First, the government dramatically increased taxes on owning dogs bought from a store or from a breeder, which in turn prompted more and more prospective pet owners to turn to shelters in hopes of finding their companion. At the same time, they introduced a nationwide program called CNVR, which stands for Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate, and Return, which is dedicated to helping stray dogs. Finally, the Netherlands also introduced a special group of policemen whose role is to ensure the safety of pets, aptly named “Animal Cops”. With all of these measures in place, the Netherlands managed to tackle the source of the problem (irresponsible and abusive owners) with high fines and police action, motivate their citizens to adopt rather than shop through taxation benefits, and ensure that the stray population doesn’t grow anymore through massive spay and neuter actions. The dogs that were already strays and in shelters were adopted (one in five Nederlanders has an adopted dog), and thanks to rigorous laws and police involvement, the population of strays isn’t growing anymore. 

Although it’s undeniable that an endeavor such as this one required a well-thought-out strategy and consistency on a national and institutional level, it seems that it was an effort well worth it. Now, Nederlanders can proudly say that their country is one of the best in the world when it comes to dog welfare and that they don’t have a stray “problem” anymore, which is not something many countries can boast. Dutch pooches have more than enough reasons to wag their tails, it seems!

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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