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06/11/2016 09:26                                                     EL MUNDO.ES digital newspaper

The secret of Holland to not have stray dogs

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated," said Gandhi. Although in Spain there have been some advances in terms of domestic animals, there is still a long way to go. Every four minutes a dog or cat is abandoned in our country and it would not hurt if we took note of how Holland has managed to be the first country without abandoned dogs. And no, it has not been a quick process. In the Netherlands, they have been fighting for dog rights since 1864, when the first animal protection agency was established in The Hague; years later, in 1877, the first canine asylum was opened. The Dutch Agency for Canine Protection ('Hondenbescherming'), the Animal Foundation Platform ('Animal Foundation Platform') and the HAS Den Bosch University, joined a few years ago to to investigate what could be the reasons why, unlike other European countries, the Netherlands had managed to put an end to the abandonment of animals and for this they had to trace the history of the region. Since the year 1800 almost all domestic units shared his roof with dogs. What's more, the type of dog that each family had was a symbol of its status. The upper class resorted to pedigree breed dogs, while crossbreeds were common among those with less purchasing power, as they were used as working dogs. In the 19th century, laws related to dog ownership began to be drawn up, although they did not they favored them too much, since once their "useful life" had expired they were allowed to be thrown out into the street. As it was legal to abandon them, the population of stray dogs increased and in the absence of sanitary control, diseases such as rabies spread. Then a new profession appeared, the dog hunter, since the fear of an epidemic led society to slaughter a multitude of stray dogs.

In addition to taking measures such as the mandatory use of leashes and muzzles for dogs, some Dutch regions decided to establish dog taxes, to exercise stricter control of the furry ones that roamed the streets freely, however, it was a mistake. Abandonments increased, since a large part of the population was not willing to face the payment or could not afford it. On the other hand, a dog in good health and well fed was synonymous with wealth, which led to a greater concern for providing animals with better treatment. The importance of the welfare of dogs led to the creation of canine societies and organizations. And in 1886 penalties began to be imposed on abusers.

Animal Protection In the 20th century, the Animal Protection Law was introduced and the Animal Health and Welfare Law was approved, which prohibits owners from not providing them with the relevant care or from abusing them. What happens if the Animal Health and Welfare Law is violated? The judicial system would consider it a criminal offense, punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 16,750 euros, which is why in the Netherlands before having a dog and abandoning it, they think twice. Currently, the Dutch see their dogs as if they were their own children and, therefore, they do not conceive of getting rid of them. In addition, as Isabelle Sternheim states in the Dogresearch report, birth control of animals has been carried out since 1960, "the number of sterilizations of dogs and cats has increased significantly."

According to Isabelle Sternheim, it is difficult to determine "if the organizations were created out of the need for animal care, or if the need for animal care gave rise to these organizations", the truth is that there have been numerous groups that have decided to ensure the welfare of animals, including the Dierenbescherming (Dutch Animal Protection Agency), Hondenbescherming (Dutch Dog Protection Agency) and Partij voor de dieren (Party for Animals), among others. And thanks to them there are no more stray dogs. In the Netherlands there has been a very strong change in mentality, animals are conceived as beings that, like people, feel and suffer, hence even at an educational level emphasis is placed on teaching children to respect and care for them. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Animal Protection (WSPA) reported in the 90s that the only way to stop the overpopulation of stray dogs was to sterilize, educate society about responsible ownership and identify the animals. And the Netherlands followed the recommendations, it is more like the Dogreserch report warns that an overpopulation of animals generates an increase in the birth of puppies, since they do not have enough resources to shelter so many "many weak dogs die unfortunately, due to malnutrition and/or dehydration When the number of stray dogs remains stable, the suffering of the species decreases considerably," because it adapts to the country's resources.

Birth rate The Netherlands knew how to take advantage of this measure and control the overpopulation of animals, since the compulsive buying of dogs was a problem because the birth rate did not stop growing. To stop it, the government assumed the costs of sterilizations and castrations by organizing free campaigns for both kennels and families. Another measure was to increase taxes on people who bought pedigree dogs, thus making it easier for those who really wanted to have a dog to end up adopting it. To this day, the Netherlands can proudly boast of being the only European country recognized as free of abandoned dogs. But... if there are no dogs for adoption and the Dutch want a life partner, what can they do? That's why the SOS Strays association was born in 2001, chaired by Carine Wouters. There are several trips that the organization makes to different European countries to supply food and materials that help improve the conditions of the animals that live in kennels or shelters, but at the same time the same trucks that leave the Netherlands with aid for neighboring countries, They collect abandoned dogs to offer them a home with a family from the Netherlands who will be delighted to open the doors of their home and their lives to them.

Such is the concern of the Netherlands for the welfare of animals that they even have a police force for them, since 2011 the 'Animal Cops' ensure their protection and safety. While in Spain this news causes surprise, our results regarding abandonment are the worst in Europe. The conclusions of the study carried out by the Affinity Foundation are encouraging, but not entirely satisfactory. Compared to previous years, "there has been a slight reduction in the number of animals that arrive at shelters and shelters", at the same time the number of lost animals that are recovered by their owners has also increased, but the abandonment of companion animals continues to be the main welfare problem for them in Spain. "Last year, 137,831 dogs and cats were collected", the figure has been reduced in recent years but continues to be very high compared to other European countries.

The excuse most used by people who abandon their animals is "behavioral and adaptation problems", according to the report by the Affinity Foundation. Another reason why people abandon dogs and cats is often unwanted litters, which can be prevented by sterilizing companion animals. But to this measure of responsible ownership we must add identification and adoption, which according to doctors Jaume Fatjó, director of the Affinity Foundation Chair, and Paula Calvo, researcher at the aforementioned chair, "covers the obligations and responsibilities of every owner ". Both experts also agree that beyond social awareness about adoption, the public should also be educated about the advantages, but also the obligations of adopting a pet, and how its arrival can influence our style. of life".

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