The Humanitarian Benefits of Rescuing Dogs in Developing CountriesOnly 5% of dogs have owners in most economically developing countries. In comparison, about 95% of dogs have owners in the United States. Animal shelters and dog rescue organizations work globally to reduce stray dog populations, which benefits both dogs and people. In addition to saving canine lives, rescuing dogs can reduce poverty by improving human health and safety.

Health Benefits of Rescuing Stray Dogs

Every year, around 55,000 people die from rabies, and half of them are children. According to the World Health Organization, 99% of people who die from rabies live in economically developing countries. Rescuing stray dogs can reduce the number of people who contract and die from rabies. It can also minimize the transmission of other canine diseases onto humans, including viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases. Disease prevention tends to be less expensive than treatment; as such, limiting the spread of diseases like rabies can be economically friendly.

While some organizations try to find homes for stray dogs, others simply focus on stray dog sterilization and vaccination. For example, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) aims to reduce stray dog populations by capturing, sterilizing, then releasing stray dogs. As a result, fewer stray dogs repopulate and spread diseases over time. Dog vaccinations can also improve public health by preventing the spread of canine diseases to humans. Moreover, rescuing dogs can reduce poverty by improving canine health, which often improves human health as well.

Safety Benefits of Lowering the Stray Dog Population

Large stray dog populations put humans at risk of dog bites and attacks, and children tend to be affected by these attacks the most. Dog bites can transmit diseases to humans like rabies, but they can also cause serious physical damage and pain, especially to small children. In impoverished communities where many people lack access to healthcare, animal rescue organizations and shelters can reduce people’s need for medical assistance by reducing the prevalence of dog-related injuries.

With fewer stray dogs on the street, people in developing countries are less likely to experience physical harm from stray dogs. As a result, they are less likely to need expensive medical assistance. Animal shelters help impoverished communities by removing dangerous animals from the street and consequently improving public health.

An Ethical Solution

Some countries have attempted to reduce stray dog populations with euthanasia programs, but ethical dog rescue programs have shown to be equally, if not more effective. Organizations that spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs for free tend to be particularly valuable for shrinking the size of stray dog populations. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one female dog who has not been spayed can produce up to 67,000 offspring in just six years. Spay and neuter programs, often called “catch-neuter-return” programs, can drastically reduce stray dog populations without resorting to euthanization.

Dog vaccinations and sterilizations are potentially the most sustainable and ethical solutions to the stray dog crisis. People and dogs alike benefit from animal rescue, sterilization and vaccination efforts. Rescuing stray dogs can reduce poverty by saving human lives, especially in impoverished communities with high stray dog populations and limited access to healthcare.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Stray dogsActivism towards global poverty tends to focus on the different aspects of human welfare rather than animal welfare. Yet, many animal rights activists have raised concerns about how developing countries deal with feral dogs living close to human populations. As these animals can both attack and spread diseases to humans, governments must figure out methods to control stray dogs and their population growth in order to protect their citizens. Many of these methods promote cruelty towards dogs and/or have no effect upon them and their population.

Adoption as a Method to Control Stray Dogs

In the United States, shelters control stray dogs by capturing them and allowing families to adopt them into loving homes. It may seem as though this method can transfer to other countries (and many have tried) but cultural differences prevent its effectiveness. The concept of dog ownership differs from country to country. Though some changes have recently occurred, the adoption of street dogs does not often factor into the norm.

While citizens of the United States can adopt dogs from overseas, the process has many dangers. With the failure of quarantine and vaccination procedures, dogs can spread dangerous diseases from overseas. Also, bringing in foreign dogs can deny native dogs the chance for a loving home.


Too many countries promote and carry out the mass-culling of dogs in an attempt to curb the stray dog population. Readers might recall the 2014 scandal in which the city of Sochi poisoned hundreds of dogs in preparation of the Winter Olympics. In places such as India, citizens kill stray dogs every day through cruel methods such as electrocution.

Killing dogs might seem as justifiable as killing any wild animal in self-defense and the defense of others, and perhaps the introduction of more humane methods of euthanasia might solve the ethical conundrum of human welfare versus dog welfare. Yet, even humane euthanasia has very little effect upon the stray population. India has attempted to control stray dogs through culling programs for decades and still has the highest stray dog population of any country.

Furthermore, the ethics of euthanasia tend to recommend using euthanasia as a last resort. While euthanasia can remove a dog from a desperate situation, humans should attempt to intervene in health, environmental and behavioral issues first. Only in the failure of these inventions can the act of euthanasia become justified.

Capture, Neuter, Vaccination and Release

Vaccination and Capture, Neuter and Release programs (some programs combine the two) seem the most effective when dealing with the most common issues of stray dogs. Vaccinating stray dogs against diseases should cause them to not spread diseases to humans. Neutering dogs should cause a decrease in the dog population. The data of such programs backs up these claims.

A 1983 rabies vaccination program led by the World Health Organization (WHO) caused rabies rates to drop 93 percent between 1982 and 2003 in Latin America. Other programs in Tanzania reduced the rabies rate by 93 percent.

As for neutering programs, Jaipur, India decreased the dog density of the state by a third in 1994 and 1995. A program in the island nation of Abaco saw the number of dogs seen in the street reduced by 50-75 percent. The stray dogs in these programs also showed an improvement of health and welfare, having “improved coat luster and quality, improved skin conditions, and fewer parasites and venereal tumors.”

Yet despite the proven success of these programs, they still have limitations for wide-spread reach. Often in developing countries, veterinarians do not have the training or experience in small animal medicine and surgery. Citizens also can have misgivings with wanting to spay their pets or cannot reach the program locations. On top of that, organizations can have difficulty accessing the necessary resources and funds.

Though no method to control stray dogs works perfectly, some do work better both in the ethical and practical sense. In the future, perhaps innovation will make the practical methods more accessible to the places that need them. For now, the efforts made have great success.

– Elizabeth Frerking

Photo: Flickr