The situation for dogs and cats varies from culture to culture. In some places, they are treated well, given scraps, even considered as part of a family, though some may still roam the streets and remain outdoors. Sometimes they serve to guard property or control pests but are unlikely to receive veterinary care or concern for their welfare. In other communities, they are disliked, or even feared, and may be kicked, hit or stoned if they come too close. Although cats on the street tend to do better than dogs at fending for themselves, the lives of both species are filled with misery.
A community’s population of roaming animals is both an animal welfare and public health and safety problem. Animals on the streets can face starvation, abuse or even death. Dogs are responsible for most cases of rabies transmission to humans and both dogs and cats can spread a host of other diseases. Anywhere dogs and people co-exist, particularly in densely packed urban areas, there is the risk of dog bites and road accidents caused by roaming animals. There is also an economic toll, such as expensive human rabies post-exposure treatment and negative consequences for tourism.
Governments, whose responsibility it is to safeguard public health and safety, often lack the resources and/or knowledge to develop and implement humane and effective programs to manage dog and cat populations, and to tackle the public health issues that may result from having roaming dogs and cats in a community. The lack of information and resources has led many governments to resort to cruel and ineffective means of population control, such as mass sheltering, poisoning, electrocution and shooting.
In addition to not having access to affordable and accessible veterinary services, families and individuals may lack an understanding of the welfare needs of pets and roaming animals in their community. Adoption of homeless dogs and cats is still a relatively new concept in many countries. And, unfortunately, even in places where adoption is common, there are too many litters born to keep up with the number of homes available.
Another major challenge to adequate dog and cat welfare is a lack of training opportunities for veterinarians to develop skills in high-quality spay/neuter surgery.
In addition to not having access to affordable and accessible veterinary services, families and individuals may lack an understanding of the welfare needs of pets and roaming animals in their community. Adoption of homeless dogs and cats is still a relatively new concept in many countries. And, unfortunately, even in places where adoption is common, there are not enough homes available to keep up with the number of litters born.
As a result of varying political, cultural, economic and geographic factors that affect a country’s animal welfare situation, there is no single solution to human-animal conflict and animal suffering that can be applied universally.