Monday, January 23, 2012

A Dog’s Natural Environment?

This blog post by Maria Goodavage highlights the plight of dogs in Greece following the economic problems of the country. The relationship between economic hardship and increased stray dogs on the streets is fairly clear but I think economics can work against dogs in another way. For example, in Bangkok, dog abandonment seemed to actually increase in times of boom as if buying a cute puppy had become a minor expense and the dog was then unfortunately later included in the carefree, throw-away attitude to life that prosperity had brought. In other words, increased wealth meant that belongings, including dogs, became disposable.

Another report (here) also discusses the Greek stray problem but with the added remark that in times of hardship people looking for a dog are more likely to adopt strays than buy from a pet store.

However, what particularly interested me in the first blog post was the comment “In which civilized part of the world are the streets considered as the natural environment of a dog????”.

Aside from the question of what she means by “civilized”, I would argue that that is exactly the natural environment of a dog. I don’t mean all those dogs that have spent so many generations being turned into breeds and living in people’s homes but certainly the dog as an animal in a general sense. They are superbly suited to living as pets but also superbly suited for living on the streets wherever culture and climate allow. I believe that’s where they came from and in some parts of the world that’s where many of them still are.

I think it comes back to the western attitude to dogs being different to that in the east. Westerners are so far removed from the idea of free-ranging unowned dogs that they can only see it as wrong, which is fine in their own cultural context but this view is increasingly being forcefully exported to eastern cultures. Well-meaning it may be but the phrase “cultural imperialism” also comes to mind.

In some places some dogs should be allowed to roam free.

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