Recently I did some volunteer work at Animal Aid Unlimited in Udaipur, India. They work with any animals who need them and a majority of their rescues are street dogs. Some of them are victims of human cruelty, but mostly they are bought in due to traffic accidents or diseases. They receive the best of care at Animal Aid and are tended by vets and other staff members until they recover as much as possible, with no exceptions.
One of the very first questions I asked when I arrived at Animal Aid to volunteer, was “what do you do with the healthy dogs who recover?”
To my surprise, one of the founders, Jim, told me that they return the dogs back to the street from where they were found. As an Australian, we don’t have any dogs on the streets. They are all collected by the government and taken to a shelter where they are cared for to an extent and where they have a chance to find a new owner to look after them. If an owner isn’t found they are usually put down, tragically.
From travelling in India, it seemed to me that the street dogs here have a pretty horrible life. They are dodging traffic, getting rocks thrown at them. They have no reliable source of food or water and no way to keep clean. They fight with each other and often if they get hurt nobody appears to help them.
How wrong I was!
When you think about it, in comparison to living in their natural environment in the wild, street dogs are much better off than as pets. In the wild they get to:
- Go wherever they like with complete freedom
- Mate with any dogs they choose to
- Live in a pack
- Stay together as a family
- Fight with other dogs if they want to
- Find their own food and water
On the streets, all these things are exactly the same. Basically street dogs get to run around and have as much fun as they like. As a pet in someone’s home dogs miss out on doing ALL of these things. The average life span of a street dog is certainly less than a pampered pet, but that doesn’t mean the dog hasn’t lived a much happier and fuller life. There are a lot more dangers for a dog on the streets than in someone’s yard but the same is true of the wild.
The other thing I learnt about street dogs, is that quite often they are cared for in some way by members of the community, even though it may not be immediately apparent if you aren’t looking at it. According to Jim, when Animal Aid first started off in Udaipur 14 years ago some members of the community were suspicious and skeptical of them. They were hesitant to let them take “their” dogs away to care for them until they were certain they were helping them. Many dogs are fed regularly by locals and play with local kids and adults alike.
So next time you see a dog on the street, don’t automatically pity it. Maybe the dogs in western countries who are rounded up and taken to a shelter or the dogs who are carried around all day in a handbag as someone’s vanity pet should be the one’s we feel sorry for.
If you wish to donate to or volunteer at Animal Aid and support the fantastic work they are doing, please visit their website to find out more:
Please note: this is certainly not a sponsored post.