In the United Kingdom its simple, owned dogs have clearly defined owners and don’t go out unaccompanied, dogs alone on the street are stray/lost and will be collected by local authorities, taken to rescue centres or pounds, reunited with their owner, rehomed or in some cases euthanised
In many Asian countries including Sri Lanka, things are not so clear-cut at all
The World Health Organisation (WHO) categorised dogs depending on the level of restriction by a person and the intended provision of food/shelter/resources
1. Restricted (supervised) dogs – fully dependent and fully restricted by man
2. Family dogs – fully dependent and semi-restricted
3. Neighbourhood dogs – semi-dependent and semi-restricted
4. Unrestricted (unsupervised) dogs – semi-dependent and unrestricted
5. Feral dogs – independent and unrestricted
In the area around Randeniya where we are based, category 1 dogs are in the minority, as most houses don’t have physical boundary’s a true category 1 dog would be permanently chained or kennelled. Most dogs in the category are valued “pedigree” dogs, guard dogs or have owners with a total lack of understanding in animal’s basic needs issues we address via our Project Liberty community education
Holly pictured is a 5 year old Street dog (Category 4) sterilised, vaccinated, parasite treated by Dogstar, feed by the local community.
The vast majority of dogs fall in a range between 2 -4 and can move from one category to another in there lifetime. Some category 3-4 dogs started out as 1-2 and ran away from poor ownership or were deliberately strayed. True feral dogs are actually rare, even the most independent and unrestricted dog has some dependence on people even if its just eating rubbish from bins.
Other commonly used terms like free-range / roaming / Temple/street dogs could cover dogs from category 2-5 and pet/companion “pet” animals could be either 1-2
Ownership status is just one factor of defining quality of life, health, wellbeing and welfare. A poorly nourished street dog suffering from mange, multiple pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease and at risk from prevention conditions will clearly have a poorer quality of life and welfare than a pet that is well feed and provided for mentally and physically
Equally a “street” dog that has access to a good level of resources such as food and shelter, has been sterilised and vaccinated will have a far higher quality of life than a dog permanently restricted on a chain eating a low-quality diet with no medical care.
Location, shelter, local tolerance and interaction are just a few more of the factors that can impact on street dogs welfare. In an area where there are more dogs that resources or more dogs that a community finds acceptable street dog welfare will suffer In an ideal world, all dogs would have good homes that provide them with everything they need physically and emotionally, that does a long way off globally and getting there is why we promote spay-neuter
Is it a valid question to ask should all roaming dogs be restricted ( kenneled or chained ), or can a free-roaming dog have a good or even better quality of life. The goal is ultimately is for all dogs welfare to be improved and sometimes there are no easy answers