Animal Rescue Has Helped 1 Million Street Dogs Worldwide

Humane Society International vaccinates and spays/neuters animals in need.

Feeding street dogs in India
Feeding street dogs in India.


There are an estimated 300 million stray and roaming dogs around the world. These street dogs fight starvation and illness while often dodging to avoid people who want to kill them.

As part of its campaign to help communities care for these dogs and reduce their ever-growing populations, Humane Society International (HSI) recently completed the spay/neuter and rabies vaccination of 1 million dogs worldwide.

"Our ultimate goal is not to eradicate street dogs but to ensure that dogs living on the streets are treated with compassion and care," Wendy Higgins, director of international media for HSI, tells Treehugger.

"In many countries the local communities don't actually want the dogs to go away, they just want fewer of them and a healthier dog population that doesn't present a rabies threat. We would like to see a world where governments no longer turn to cruel dog culling as a solution, but have proper humane dog management programs in place as well as widespread access to low cost veterinary care."

Life is Rough

Street dog with children in Bhutan
Street dog with children in Bhutan. Kathy Milani / HSI

Street dogs can be found in large numbers in many countries around the world.

"China and Russia probably have the largest roaming dog populations and very few humane interventions due to a lack of government sanctioned programs," Higgins says.

Other countries with significant street dog populations include India, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Romania, Bulgaria, Philippines, Serbia, Thailand, Mexico, Guyana, Bolivia, Chile, Mauritius, Liberia, and South Africa, according to HSI.

"Life is extremely tough for street dogs in almost all these countries, mainly due to the fact that they typically have no veterinary care at all. So if they get sick with an infection or disease, or they suffer a nasty flesh wound or broken bone due to being hit by a car, they will simply endure a long and lonely death on the street," Higgins says.

Street dogs can survive for years with painful skin diseases like mange or tick and maggot infestations. They can suffer from malnutrition because food is so limited. In some places they face human cruelty where they can be hit with rocks, poisoned, shot, or beaten. One of the main reason they are targeted is that people are afraid that they carry rabies.

Helping Relationships

Street dog sleeps in Bhutan
Street dog sleeps in Bhutan. Kathy Milani / HSI

HSI has a three-pronged approach to street dog work that includes the spay/neuter and rabies vaccination program. Volunteers work with governments and local community groups to reduce the street dog populations to a manageable number while ensuring the remaining animals are rabies-free, "so that people and dogs can live more harmoniously together," Higgins says.

In addition, HSI trains local veterinarians in spaying, neutering, and other surgical skills so they become self-sufficient and don't rely on HSI. The organization also sponsors community-based education to "foster a kinder and more informed relationship with the dogs so as to avoid confrontations," Higgins says.

"It's certainly not always the case that local communities treat street dogs unkindly, and in fact in many of the communities where we've worked such as Mauritius, Bolivia, and Nepal, the locals can often be very accepting and even fond of the dogs, despite a desire to see the population reduced," she says.

A dog at a spay/neuter clinic in Guyana
A dog at a spay/neuter clinic in Guyana. Alex Rothlisberger / HSI

In some places, street dogs will be cared for, she said. For example, in parts of India and some Latin American countries, people leave food and water out for them. And in Mauritius and Chile, some of the street dogs are "owned" but left to roam freely.

"Dogs we would consider homeless can get food from multiple houses, and we call these community dogs. They do not have one single household or person taking responsibility for them and therefore providing veterinary care or shelter," Higgins says. 

Though HSI is celebrating the one-million milestone in conjunction with World Spay Day (Feb. 23), the international program to help street dogs is ongoing.

"Wherever HSI works we always recruit and train locally so that ultimately we can hand the program over to local groups knowing that it will carry on and grow in the future," Higgins says. "Getting the communities involved is absolutely critical to the success of any program, particularly as human behaviour change is an integral part of any successful street dog program. "

View Article Sources
  1. Leung, Tiffany, and Stephen A. Davis. "Rabies Vaccination Targets for Stray Dog Populations." Frontiers in Veterinary Science, vol. 4, 2017, doi:10.3389/fvets.2017.00052