A happy dog isn’t always an owned dog - why ownership won’t solve Sri Lanka’s dog crisis.

May 30, 2022

If you’ve lived in the UK, or a similar country, you probably think of a happy dog as one with an owner - a human guardian they can rely on for food, love and care. 

So you might imagine that the solution to Sri Lanka’s dog overpopulation and welfare crisis is to generate more owners, right? With more owners, wouldn’t less dogs live life roaming the streets and beaches? Unfortunately, the solution isn’t so simple. Here’s why: 

The key to being a great dog owner is education - learning about the physical and emotional needs that all dogs have. And crucially, you need to be able to put that education into action. You need to have the money to buy food, afford veterinary care and create a physical space that is safe for a dog. 

In Sri Lanka, the economic and social resources people need to offer a dog a great life are often lacking. And the current economic crisis facing Sri Lanka is only going to make this worse. 

Through the years of Dogstar delivering mass vaccinations to both roaming and owned dogs, we have seen plenty of owned dogs experience poor welfare. Sadly, the sight of an owned dog living in a tiny ‘kennel’ is not uncommon. Excessive kennelling and chaining is a huge problem here, and it often stems from a lack of awareness, understanding and resources. 

As you can see, the answer to Sri Lanka’s animal welfare crisis isn’t going to be as simple as just finding more homes for dogs. Instead, it’ll come from tackling the root of the problem head-on.

Where does the animal welfare crisis come from?

In Sri Lanka, thousands of animals are born onto the streets each year. There are simply too many dogs for even the most well-meaning and knowledgable communities to care for. With too many dogs and not enough guardians, animals will begin to suffer.

To put an end to this crisis, you have to stop overpopulation. Luckily, you help run Sri Lanka’s largest spay/neuter service to stop the suffering that endless litters bring. If overpopulation is like a leaky tap, you’re turning the tap off once and for all.

And this spay/neuter service is available for owned dogs as well as roaming dogs. This is because many owned dogs in Sri Lanka do have some ability to roam, and are therefore at risk of fathering a litter or becoming pregnant themselves. To get the overpopulation crisis under control, we need to offer great veterinary services to every dog - owned or living on the steet.

But it’s clear that spay/neuter without community engagement isn’t enough

To tackle the welfare issues that owned dogs face, and to build whole communities of Dogstars who can look out for the dogs around them, we need to engage properly with local communities. Dogstar is proud to have a long history of running community engagement programmes, school education projects and distributing flyers and information to anyone who visits our mobile spay/neuter clinics.

Whilst COVID-19 has affected some of these programmes over the last two years, our knowledgeable Sri Lankan staff are able to talk to community members directly when dogs are brought to our clinics, raising awareness about welfare issues. 

The time to act is now 

With Sri Lanka going through an unprecedented economic and social crisis, more and more dogs might find themselves on the streets. If we can build a community of Dogstars who understand the physical and emotional needs of a dog, and can look out for them, we can limit the suffering this crisis will have on Sri Lankan animals.

There is lots to do to tackle this often more hidden cruelty and poor welfare. Whilst it was a poorly temple dog that first captured my imagination for what a Sri Lanka free of suffering could look like, it is the plight of these kennelled and chained dogs that keeps me awake at night. But with you by our side, I know a new generation of Dogstars is on the horizon.

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