Sunday, April 8, 2012

Adopting Stray Dogs from Overseas

This CBS News story highlights a growing trend, particularly in the US, for adopting stray dogs from abroad. Holidaying in foreign lands often brings people into contact with many things with which they are unfamiliar and this includes unowned street dogs. The reaction is often one of wanting to help these animals and increasingly animal welfare groups in some countries are making it easier to do so by helping you to adopt a stray and take it home as a pet.

People’s reaction to street dogs is interesting in itself as dogs have a wonderful talent for eliciting pity from us. I suspect that this came about from their need to deflect human aggression whilst living as scavengers around human communities. Living close to people means encountering people. Neither fight nor flight would make much sense in that lifestyle but looking nonthreatening would be a good tactic. It’s then a short step from cowering and cringing to begging through looking helpless and pathetic. In some ways they are quite manipulative and have us in the palm of their paw but deserve respect for that. However, it certainly does also go further than this and many unowned dogs are genuinely in dire straits and need help from people perhaps due to being an abandoned ex-pet, for example.

Many people’s reaction to the adoption of stray dogs from overseas is to question the expense and ask whether the money couldn’t better be used in a different way. This is usually my first reaction as well but I do also have a lot of sympathy with the direct connection that people have made. Another viewpoint would be to pat the dog on the head and say, “well done dog, you caught them hook, line and sinker!”.

The thing that worries me is the assumption that all these dogs need to be saved in the first place. I’m sure many of them do but am equally sure that many actually have a better life than they pretend.

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