A problem of homeless dogs in the 21st century: a case study of the USA, the UK and Perm, Russia

IX Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
Старт в науке

A problem of homeless dogs in the 21st century: a case study of the USA, the UK and Perm, Russia

Чугаева В.С. 1
1МАОУ "Гимназия №6" г. Пермь
Яруллина Р.Г. 1
1МАОУ "Гимназия №6" г. Перми
Автор работы награжден дипломом победителя II степени
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Introduction

Nowadays, quite a lot of abandoned cats and dogs inhabit not only the streets of our country, but also the rest of the world. More and more people consider it to be a growing problem. People’s concern about this situation can be seen in the headlines of newspaper articles and it is not ungrounded. Both stray cats and dogs can spread various diseases, like rabies, which can be fatal for people. However, dogs are more dangerous than cats; that is why our research is focused on the problem of stray dogs. They can attack and bite people and make a mess around rubbish bins while they are looking for food. Also they can howl and bark loudly in the night, especially in the mating season.

Having searched the websites of some animal rights organizations we have compiled some statistics on number of stray dogs in different countries. According to our research, the smallest number of street dogs is in the UK: there are less than 70.000 stray dogs[The 2017 Stray Dogs Report: electronic resource]. Their number in the streets is directly dependent on the economic situation in the country. For example, during the 2008–2011 economic crisis the number of stray dogs plummeted, whereas when it ended, the number started to decrease [ Бездомные собаки в Великобритании: electronic resource].

Then in the USA, there are 6.5 million dogs without owners. The main reasons animals end up in shelters in America: owners give them up or animal control finds them on the street[Shelter Intake and Surrender: electronic resource].

Moreover, we can look at the situation in Asia. The leaders in this part of the world are India, Singapore and China with 30 million (2014), 7.000 (2017) and more than 2million (2015) of stray dogs respectively [ India has 30…;Joint effort to manage…;Stray Dogs, cats in crisis numbers: electronic resource].While in European countries, like the UK, it is difficult to come across with stray dogs in the streets, in Asian countries it is exactly the place where they live.

In Russia, the number of stray dogs isn’t public, but in 2018 it was estimated that there were approximately 2 million strays in 11 FIFA World Cup cities [Newkey-Burden, 2018].In Perm there are about 1000 street dogs. But their exact number will be counted by June 1st, 2019.

Governmental policy towards stray dogs

In the UK, the first law about responsible treatment of animals came into effect in 1822. The British Parliament gave the rights and freedoms to many animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, etc. The law prescribes several types of punishment to animal owners who violate the law: from large fines to imprisonment [ Бездомные собаки в Великобритании: electronic resource].Apart from that there is ‘the Environmental Protection Act 1990’ which states that there should be an officer appointed in every municipality to control the stray dog population. In case of seizing a potentially stray dog the officer must try to find the owner, find new home for the animal or destroy it in the most painless manner. According to ‘the Control of Dogs Order, 1992’, in order not to lose a dog in a situation of leaving it in a public place, owners must put a collar with the name and address of the owner on the dogs. Otherwise they must be punished [Законодательство по бездомным собакам в Англии: electronic resource].Moreover, owners should obey ‘The 2006 Animal Welfare Act’ which states that ‘they <owners><must> take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice’ [Animal Welfare Act - RSPCA: electronic resource]. Lastly, there are charity organisations which help the government to avoid putting dogs to sleep as much as possible.

In the USA, laws regulating the animal welfare are issued at the federal, state and municipal levels. The primary federal animal protection law is the Animal Welfare Act, which became a law in 1966. It is the United States Department of Agriculture which must control how well this law is obeyed. Another federal law prescribes putting down a homeless animal if it is not adopted [Laws that Protect Animals: electronic resource]. Also, each state has the right to introduce their own laws and regulations for dogs. Moreover, individual cities and areas within the state can also establish their own rules. For example, there are several chapters in the 2018 Minnesota Statutes which prescribe certain actions when a stray dog is seized and its welfare should be maintained [2018 Minnesota Statutes, electronic resource]. Apart from that, there are non-governmental organizations, like ASPCA, which help with rescuing stray animals and rehoming them. Also, there are number of non-kill animal shelters which are against euthanizing dogs.

The government of Russia is trying to solve this problem in different ways. There are local regional laws regulating the situation with stray animals, but they seem to be quite ineffective. In the Perm region, now it is non-governmental Animal Organizations and volunteers who are monitoring the dog population. On January 1st 2019, in the Russian Federation a new law ‘About responsible treatment of animals’[Федеральный закон от 27 декабря 2018 г.: electronic resource] came into effect as some official support to this local activity. The first reading of this law was held in March 2011. It was in the Duma for seven years and caused various reviews and many arguments. The law also draws the attention to responsible treatment of domestic animals, to prohibition of contact zoos and participation of animals in different fights organized for people’s pleasure.

In relation to it, we have decided to carry out a small study to evaluate the situation with stray dogs in Perm, to check if the law has started to bring any results and to compare it to the situation in the USA and Great Britain. We hypothesize that the problem in these two countries is smaller than in Perm: there might be fewer unattended street dogs, people might be kinder and more responsible and their governments are likely to take a more active part in regulating the situation.

Situation with stray dogs in Perm, the USA and the UK

Methodology

To study the situation with stray dogs in different areas, we have launched an online survey to find out people’s opinion on this problem. We are conducting this survey among young adults aged 17–35, living in Perm, some American and British cities. We have received 25 answers from Perm, 3 replies from Britain and 2 from the US. We asked our respondents questions like these: “Do you think that the problem of stray dogs is essential nowadays?”, “Are there many stray dogs in your neighborhood?”, “Have you ever been bitten by street pooches?”, etc. (see Appendix 1). We used a statistical method to analyze the data.

As an additional research method, we surveyed the Postcrossing community [Postcards connecting the world - Postcrossing: electronic resource] all over the world. Although we have received answers from different countries, in our analysis we used replies only from the countries mentioned above (the analysis of replies from other countries can be found in p.1). We have got 2 postcards, which are analysed below.

Situation in Perm, Russia

The results of our survey in Perm are the following: all our respondents agreed that this problem exists and it is urgent nowadays. Nearly all of them (92%) noted that there are a lot of stray dogs in their neighbourhoods, approximately 15–25 dogs in each. However, we assume that our informants might have misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘neighbourhood’ because we have received various answers such as 5 or 100.The possible understandings can vary from ‘area close to your house’ to ‘a city district’.

The question about the necessity of feeding the dogs got different replies (72% said yes, 12% said now and 16% do not have a set opinion), because it seems people have a dilemma: if they feed street dogs, the number of the dogs grows. Despite the dilemma about a half of respondents are sure that it is cruel not to feed them (‘If we feed them, we help them multiply their numbers. But not feeding them is cruel as well’).

About 70% of people are afraid of street dogs, but still a half of them would be happy to adopt one, although not all of them have an opportunity to do it.

Over 50% of the respondents are against putting dogs to sleep as a way to solving the problem. They accept it ‘only if they are too aggressive and can’t be trained for a long period of time’. They also think that ‘it’s cruel and unnecessary as there other things that can be done to them like putting them in a shelter’. However, there are few people who see it as a way to prevent stray dogs from multiplying.

Nearly 90% of informants think that the local government should pay more attention to this problem and support animal shelters financially.

Situation in the USA

The situation in the USA is not perfect: according to the postcards, there are still a lot of stray dogs, but there are rescue centers which catch and put them into shelters or foster them until adoption.

Unlike in Perm, not all respondents consider stray dogs being a problem: 75% admitted it to be a problem. Some of them noted the efficiency of rescue teams (‘I don't see them often where I live, because there are rescue programs which will try and find strays a good home). Surprisingly, a half of the respondents claimed that there are stray dogs in their neighbourhood, whereas another half stated the opposite.

In the US the number of people who are not afraid of stray dogs is almost equal to the number of Perm people who are afraid of them (75% and 72%, respectively). Nearly 50% of the informants would be happy to adopt one. However, both people who answered this question “yes” and “no” gave reasons for their inaction: limited living space, landlord restrictions and other pets (‘If I had the room to accommodate a stray, I would love to adopt one’, ‘I live in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs, but if I move, I would adopt a stray dog from a shelter’).

Like in Perm, the question whether the strays should be put down brought up the same dilemma: 16% do not know their attitude to it, but they are more against it than in favor (‘Sometimes yes. This is tough because here where I live, if a stray does not get adopted within a certain amount of time, they euthanize it because they don't have enough room to accommodate new stray animal’, ‘If there was funding available for more animal rescue centres, this would help a little’, ‘Only if they are in pain or are not going to live much longer’). A tenth of the informants claimed that putting dogs to sleep is a possible solution due to economic reasons: unfortunately, it has to be done or it takes more of our tax dollars for long-term care of all of them’.

Opinions about local governmental support are different: some people are sure that their authorities are quite successful (we are pretty good on that here’), other people notice not enough support from the government (‘I think Minnesota does a pretty good job. But other states in the US are different, and some should probably take more care’, ‘There should be more city run services offering reduced/free neutering services so help reduce unwanted puppies’). Also, they think that the problem is irresponsible owners, not a lack of shelters for abandoned dogs.

Situation in the UK

Even though the number of British informants is almost twice as small as the number of American respondents, the trends are similar to each other. Nearly all respondents said that there are no stray dogs in their neighbourhoods, although a fifth admitted stray dogs being a current problem. Their real problem is feral cats: “In The UK, the problem of stray dogs is not as bad as other stray animals, for example cats”. As they have probably never seen stray dogs in the streets, they might have heard about the problem from the mass media.

Due to the lack of experience with stray dogs, about 70% replied that they are not afraid of the dogs. As for the willingness to adopt one, 45% said that they would be happy to take a stray dog home. Their current inaction is caused by the same reasons as the inaction of Americans: limited living space and other pets.

In terms of feeding stray dogs, 45% of the respondents claimed that it is necessary, whereas almost a fifth is facing a dilemma like other nationalities: they are unsure if it is helpful and can bring any positive results. The former might have been directed by some moral principles, while the latter might have been confused by the absence of the problem in Britain.

Although there are people who do not want to adopt a stray dog (36%) or think it is unnecessary to feed them in the streets (36%), about 80% of the informants are against putting them to sleep. Their arguments are the following: “It depends on how bad the problem is, and whether they are a risk to people. Generally it is better to get them adopted”, “Stray animals and pets that are no longer wanted should always have a second chance at happiness!<they should get to a shelter>”.

Conclusion

Our hypothesis has been proved right: the situation with homeless dogs in the USA and the UK is generally more optimistic than in Perm. The trend in the USA is similar to the trend in the UK. Both countries recognize that this problem exists despite the small number of street dogs in their neighbourhoods. Thus most people are not afraid of them and a half of our respondents are willing to adopt one. The majority is strongly against dog euthanasia except the cases when it is unavoidable, e.g. when they are ill, dangerous or cannot be trained. The governments of the USA and the UK take a more active part in solving this problem than the Russian government.

Unlike in these two countries, in Perm stray dogs can be found in almost every neighbourhood and many citizens have a fear of street dogs, probably due to being bitten by them. It might be also a reason for unwillingness to adopt a dog from a shelter now or in the future. However, more than a half is against putting down them due to their moral principles. Those principles encourage the opinion that it is necessary to feed dogs both in shelters and in the streets. The Russian government has finally paid attention to this problem and introduced the new law to control and improve the situation.

Summing up, there are stray dogs everywhere, but not everywhere they are treated in the same way. There is a hope that the situation in Perm will change with the introduction of the new law. Now the only thing we can do is to feed street dogs whenever we see them and to help them find a new family.

 

References

1. Newkey-Burden C. Russia is killing stray dogs. World Cup stars must help stop the slaughter // The Guardian. 2018.

2. The 2017 Stray Dogs Report [Электронныйресурс]. URL: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/news-events/news/stray%20dogs%20report_v4.pdf (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

3. Автопробег зоозащита | Бездомные собаки в Великобритании [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://probeg-zoozashita.ru/?page_id=3805 (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

4. Shelter Intake and Surrender [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

5. India has 30 million stray dogs. [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-has-30-million-stray-dogs-one-state-is-pushing-vigilantes-to-kill-them/2016/10/20/48017a70-252f-4440-9a55-8ca9d4509145_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d80f5c420c98 (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

6. Joint effort to manage stray dog population in Singapore [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/joint-effort-to-manage-stray-dog-population-in-singapore (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

7. Stray Dogs, cats in crisis numbers [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://archive.shine.cn/sunday/Stray-Dogs-cats-in-crisis-numbers/shdaily.shtml (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

8. Законодательство по бездомным собакам в Англии [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.animalsprotectiontribune.ru/UKLaw.html (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

9. Animal Welfare Act - RSPCA [Электронныйресурс]. URL: https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/endcruelty/changingthelaw/whatwechanged/animalwelfareact (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

10. Laws that Protect Animals [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://aldf.org/article/laws-that-protect-animals/ (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

11. 2018 Minnesota Statutes [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/346 (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

12. Федеральный закон от 27 декабря 2018 г. N 498-ФЗ «Об ответственном обращении с животными и о внесении изменений в отдельные законодательные акты Российской Федерации» — Российская газета [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://rg.ru/2018/12/29/fz-498-dok.html (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

13. Postcards connecting the world - Postcrossing [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://www.postcrossing.com/ (дата обращения: 01.03.2019).

Appendices

Appendix 1. The questionnaire

The problem of stray animals in different countries

Your country of residence and the city

Your age

Do you think that the problem of stray dogs is essential nowadays?

Are there many stray dogs in your neighbourhood?

If you said, 'Yes', how many dogs are there in your neighbourhood?

Have you ever been bitten by street pooches?

Are you afraid of stray mutts?

Have you ever hurt/ beat/ kick street dogs?

Do you think it is necessary to feed them?

Has your family ever abandoned any pets?

Can a stray dog be a friend of a human being?

Would you like to adopt a stray dog?

Do you think does it is necessary to put down stray mutts?

Do you think that there should be more shelters?

Do you think the administration of your country/ city/ place of living should pay more attention to this problem?

Appendix 2. Postcrossing results

 

Europe

Belgium

there aren’t that much homeless animals”

 

Germany

We don’t have many homeless animals here because they get caught and put in an animal centre”

 

The Netherlands

There are a lot of organizations that take care of hurt or homeless animals”

 

Italy (Sicily)

“… sure, they are fine- they are all in government”

Asia

Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

have many SPCA organizations”

 

China (Shanghai)

homeless animals are well protected as long as it come to our university”

 

The Philippines

Most street animals <…> are just left on the streets to fend for their own life”

Post- Soviet

Belarus

a lot of stray animals”

 

Appendix 3. Survey results in Perm, Russia

 

Appendix 4. Survey results in the USA

 

Appendix 5. Survey results in the UK

Appendix 6. Comments survey.

UK

Putting down?

the problem seems to be under control in my city

It depends on how bad the problem is, and whether they are a risk to people. Generally it is better to get them adopted

Stray animals and pets that are no longer wanted should always have a second chance at happiness!

Is there a problem?

In The UK, the problem of stray dogs is not as bad as other stray animals, for example cats.

Government?

In the UK, there are many charities that take on this responsibility, using the donations of strangers of und their activities.

US

Are there any in your neighbourhood?

I don't see them often where I live, because there are rescue programs which will try and find strays a good home

Feeding?

I would probably feed one if I had some food available for it.

Dogs will find food on their own but I still always want to feed them if I have something I can give them

Adoption?

If I had the room to accommodate a stray, I would love to adopt one.

I live in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs, but if I move, I would adopt a stray dog from a shelter.

Putting down?

Idk. Sometimes yes. This is tough because here where I live, if a stray does not get adopted within a certain amount of time, they euthanize it because they don't have enough room to accommodate new stray animals. If there was funding available for more animal rescue centres, this would help a little.

Only if they are in pain or are not going to live much longer

Unfortunately, it has to be done or it takes more of our tax dollars for long-term care of all of them

Government?

I think Minnesota does a pretty good job. But other states in the US are different, and some should probably take more care.

There should be more city run services offering reduced/free neutering services so help reduce unwanted puppies.

We are pretty good on that here

More shelters?

More responsible owners

Perm

Putting down?

Only if they are too aggressive and can’t be trained for a long period of time. But this happens rarely, to be fair. Almost all the dogs can be trained

No, I thinkit’scruelandunnecessaryasthereotherthingsthatcanbedonetothemlikeputtingthemin a shelter

No, but it is important to take control that they don’t multiply.

Adoption

Yes, but, unfortunately, I live in a flat and have a cat

Feeding?

They need to be captured and fed in captivity (animals shelters)

If we feed them, we help them multiply their numbers. But not feeding them is cruel as well

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