On the Psychology Today website Dr. Marc Bekoff introduces his article by saying that there are 1 billion dogs on the planet and 25% of them are living in homes with companions. The remaining 75% are free ranging or feral. Simple mathematics tells us that there are 750 million dogs on the planet without homes and without a genuine human companion, which I find astonishing and an utter failure in the domestication of the dog. For domestic cats I think it’s no better. Another human mess. Dog and cat domestication was never meant to end up like this. I guess the truth is humankind never had any idea how it would end up! It is all uncontrolled in most counties.
However, there is a man, a free-ranging dog expert, whose name is Marco Adda, who thinks that we should be introducing more dogs to the free-ranging lifestyle. He appears to think that it’s a good thing that there are 750 million dogs without homes. He thinks that we should be studying them and he appreciates them.
He says that there is an ordered structure within this community of un-owned dogs. He believes that they are not inherently aggressive or dangerous. And he correctly states that not all free-ranging or feral dogs are without owners because the human community sometimes own these dogs by looking after them in an ad hoc way.
It’s the same as community cats. There are more community cats in the world than there are owned cats which, for me, indicates a failure in cat domestication.
Why it is a failure
And I tell you why it’s a failure but Mr Marco Adda will disagree with me. It’s a failure because these feral or free-ranging dogs are badly cared for. Yes, somebody might be feeding them occasionally but who is responsible for taking them to a veterinarian? Who takes charge of that? Is there some sort of human protocol, modus operandi, which deals with maintaining a good standard of health for these dogs by appointing a committee? Of course, there isn’t. For hundreds of millions of streeties life is pretty miserable and survival is incredibly difficult. How can Mr Adda recommend that lifestyle?
I don’t know what Marco Addo thinks about that. And although he is correct in that most of them are not dangerous, if you read stories from India, you will note that monkeys living in the urban environment in India (there are armies of them) are killing dogs by taking them to the top of a tall building and throwing them off. The reason? Because a dog or dogs killed their babies (see link below).
This is happening in a certain area of India and it isn’t widespread but it indicates how the concept of free-ranging community dogs can go horribly wrong.
Romanticising street dogs
Nathan Winograd, America’s great exponent of the no-kill animal shelter movement, says that to encourage or praise community dogs is to romanticise the life of street dogs. Sometimes they are called “streeties”.
Nathan Winograd was taken aback by Mr Adda’s desire “for the progressive reintroduction of free-ranging dogs in those places where they have been wiped out in the name of civilisation.”
Turning the clock back
The best of my knowledge, in America, the citizens of America don’t like dogs running wild around the urban environment which is why there are rules about it and why they are taken off the streets and either put into shelters for rehoming or euthanised. But Mr Adda wants to revert back to the past when there were three-ranging dogs worrying residents.
Mr Adda believes that village dogs often live better lives than dogs in homes. He believes that taking community dogs off the streets “reflects a society where humans control nature and separate from her”. He goes a step further by suggesting that a truly “civilised society” requires “free-ranging dogs around”.
Comment: I thought these were meant to be domestic dogs? Dogs living with people who care for them. That would seem to be the arrangement in a civilised society because the dogs are better cared for. The level of sophistication in a civilised society is reflected in how society cares for the most vulnerable and of course companion animals are in that category.
If you support the idea of community dogs, I don’t think you’re promoting a civilised society. You are turning the clock back to a society which is less civilised than it is today. And I don’t think community dogs have anything to do with nature.
Dog domestication is not about nature. It is about humans using dogs to their advantage. That’s how they were first domesticated. If we want to revert to nature then there should be no domestic dogs at all.
Mr Adda’s views I think are peculiar and very much out of step with the general viewpoint of people concerned with companion animal welfare.
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