Why a dog on the street isn’t always a ‘street dog’

August 16, 2021

It’s more complex than you think…

In the UK, it’s simple - owned dogs have clear owners and don’t go out unaccompanied. Street dogs are strays or lost, and will be collected by local authorities where they will either be reunited with their owner, taken to a rescue centre or pound, rehomed or sometimes euthanised. 

But in Sri Lanka, like many Asian countries, it isn’t so clear cut. 

The World Health Organisation categorises dogs depending on the level of restriction from a person, and the supply of food/shelter/resources they have access to. There are actually 5 categories of dogs. 

  1. Restricted supervised dogs - these dogs are fully dependent on and fully restricted by a person(s). 
  2. Family dogs - these dogs are fully dependent on a person(s) but only semi-restricted.
  3. Neighbourhood dogs - these dogs are semi-dependent on humans and are semi restricted by them too. 
  4. Unrestricted and unsupervised dogs - these dogs are still semi dependent on humans, but are unrestricted.
  5. Feral dogs - these dogs are independent from humans and unrestricted. 
In much of Sri Lanka, Category 1 dogs are in the minority.

Most people don’t have houses with physical boundaries to contain a dog, so a true Category 1 dog would have to be permanently chained or kennelled. Category 1 dogs in Sri Lanka might be valued ‘pedigrees’, guard dogs, or have owners who might not understand an animal's basic needs. 

The majority of dogs in Sri Lanka actually fall between categories 2-4. They might have run away from poor ownership or were deliberately strayed. Truly feral dogs are rare because even the most independent dog has some dependence on people - even if it’s just eating rubbish from our bins.

Ownership status doesn’t have to determine quality of life

Street dogs with good access to food and shelter, who have been sterilised and vaccinated, will have a far higher quality of life than one restricted on a chain with a low quality diet and no medical care. 

But right now, many street dogs are poorly nourished, suffering from mange, multiple pregnancies, and preventable disease. When there are more dogs than guardians, communities suffer.

That’s why spay/neuter is at the heart of our work.

If we can stem the street dog crisis, educate communities about responsible dog ownership, and improve welfare for every existing street dog - everyone wins. 

That’s why the goal of The Dogstar Foundation isn’t ownership, but happy, healthy dogs living in harmony.


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