Reducing the burden of stray dogs in society

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally the dog population is 1/10 that of the human population, of which 75% are regarded as “strays”.

The problems caused in terms of disease and injury to humans, their livestock and pets, as well as general nuisance has traditionally led authorities to adopt mass slaughter programmes. These are often inhumane and have shown to be ineffective.


Strays versus total dog population

The word “stray” is now considered unhelpful in terms of population management. Dogs are better considered as “confined” or “free-roaming”, though at any one time individual dogs may move freely between these sub-groups as shown in the diagram. This is very much dependent on local culture. For this reason it is important that the aim is to manage the dog population as a whole, rather than just consider “strays” alone.






Population control is a complex issue and will require a range of interventions that may include:

  • Legislation
  • Registration and identification
  • Neutering
  • Garbage control
  • Control of sales outlets
  • Public education

All these components must be considered, although the priorities will vary in different situations. Public safety must be considered as a priority in areas where rabies is endemic.

An overall strategic plan

Experience has shown that an effective strategy requires the coordinated efforts of all relevant agencies, including human and animal health ministries, the local municipality, animal welfare groups, educators and importantly the local community. It is important that all groups agree the strategy and working towards agreed objectives.

The steps required to achieve this are explained clearly in the document “Humane Dog Population Management” produced by The International Companion Animal Management Coalition (ICAM). This is available as a download (in multiple languages) from their website (

Can Euthanasia ever be part of a strategy?

This is a moral dilemma faced by those involved in population control.

Given limitless resources of money and manpower, a “no-kill” policy where no healthy animal is destroyed may be the ideal to work towards. However, this is not always the reality. Even consenting to  euthanasia for individual animals who some would say were suffering can be difficult in some cultures.

So this is a delicate situation, and ICAM have produced a document titled: “The Welfare Basis for Euthanasia of Dogs and Cats and Policy Development.” This document has been developed for use by any public, private or charitable organisation, agency, or individual with responsibility for a programme of work involving dogs or cats. This is available as a download (in multiple languages) from their website (

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