In the United States and other countries around the world, doting on pet dogs with fancy beds and decorative collars is acceptable — if not sometimes expected.
Yet in some regions, dogs are seen as dangerous, disease-carrying pest. In other areas, they are food.
In every country, dogs suffer at the hands of humans — or they’re treated with compassion and love. Below are just a few examples of the lives of dogs around the world.
The pet population in Japan is greater than the number of children in the country. In fact, Japanese households pamper their pets so much that it has “fueled the growth of a $10 billion pet industry in the country,” according to World Atlas.
The United States is the world leader for pet dog population, boasting nearly 76 million dogs in the country.
Brazil is the runner-up, with 35.7 million dogs. An incredible 50% of homes in Brazil have a dog, and the pet care industry is booming, generating $15.2 billion in 2013.
Not long ago, I saw a headline about dogs who ride subways to find prime scavenging spots. They commuted — like their humans — into the city, where food was easier to forage.
Andrei Neuronov, a Russian expert on animal psychology and behavior, described to the New Yorker the 3 types of metro dogs: “dogs who live in the subway but do not travel, dogs who use the subway to travel short distances instead of walking, and entrepreneurial dogs who spend the day riding back and forth, busking.”
The Russian metro dogs began using the subway in the ’90s. Passengers and metro workers fed the strays, encouraging the dogs to continue their daily commutes.
Dogs haven’t been so lucky in parts of India, where they’re blamed for spreading rabies to humans.
The country has the world’s highest rabies fatality rate. To curb the spread, officials in the northern city of Srinagar sanctioned the poisoning of 100,000 stray dogs in 2008.
Animal rights activists responded immediately, stating that using strychnine was “particularly cruel, causing terrible suffering to the dogs, crippling their nervous systems and choking them.”
The actual number of dogs poisoned is unknown, but Srinagar isn’t the only city to try and solve the rabies epidemic this way. In Bangalore, a call to slaughter strays ended quickly “amid allegations that untrained workers were stoning, strangling, and beating the dogs to death,” and in the capital city of New Delhi, a “city councilor suggested shipping the country’s strays to Korea, where dog meat is considered a delicacy.”
But here’s a light at the end of this dark tunnel: In Jaipur, a spay/neuter and rabies vaccine program resulted in “zero human rabies cases, and a concurrent fall in dog bite cases” as well as a 50% decline in the stray dog population from 1995 to 2014.
On June 21, the city of Yulin held its annual dog meat festival amid global protests. An estimated 10,000 dogs were slaughtered for consumption — “a contributing factor in the killing of 10 million dogs in China for meat every year,” said Stop Yulin Forever, an organization petitioning for the end of Yulin’s festival.
Because these dogs aren’t raised for food on farms, “the vast majority of so-called ‘meat dogs’ are in fact stolen companion animals and strays,” according to a 2015 report by Animals Asia.
Although populations in certain parts of China have eaten dog meat for centuries, the claims that Yulin’s festival is a matter of tradition are ridiculous: The festival has existed only since 2010.
Here’s a short, beautiful example of how much dogs can love and be loved:
In 2010, the stray dog population in Baghdad was around 1.25 million, a cause for concern as attacks and disease increased. So the government hired 20 teams of veterinarians and police to shoot or poison the dogs — and they killed about 58,000 dogs in about 3 months.
“We could consider this the biggest campaign of dog execution ever,” Baghdad chief vet Mohammed al-Hilly told the Daily Mail.
Sadly, al-Hilly believed mass destruction was the only option instead of more humane alternatives.
You Can Make a Difference
Wondering how you can help end the mistreatment of animals globally?
A number of organizations work toward educating communities as well as sterilizing and vaccinating dogs abroad. If you want to help, you can donate, volunteer or share information through: