Dutch Dog Days. story and photography by Debra Starr A firsthand account on why you won’t see stray dogs in the Netherlands.

Walk through any city, town or village in the Netherlands and you will see beautiful flowers,expansive bridges, bustling canals and fabulous architecture. The whole coun- try is a feast for your eyes. The Netherlands is also a delight for dog lovers, a country where dogs are treated like family. You’ll see dogs in restaurants, dogs in

shops, and dogs enjoying a quick drink (of water) in bars, pubs and cafes. You’ll see dogs that are accompanying their owners on buses, trains and trams. What you won’t see are stray dogs. For each of the past three summers, I

have been fortunate enough to bring my two dogs, Jazz and Dino, to enjoy the cool summer weather and dog-friendly culture in Haarlem, a city 20 minutes from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As a dedicated and active animal rescue

volunteer in the U.S., my devotion to dogs continues despite the physical distance from my home base on the west coast of Florida. For more than 20 years, I have worked

to reduce shelter populations of stray dogs in the United States, volunteering in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida. Over those same years, euthanasia in the U.S. has shrunk from over 17 million a year to an estimated three to four million in 2016. Unfortunately, that still means that 8,000 to 10,000 pets are being killed in U.S. shelters every day. Here in the Netherlands, however, not

only are there no stray dogs, but euthanasia for healthy pets is not even in their vocabulary. This summer, I was determined to figure out why. To understand their success, let’s start

with some facts: The Netherlands is a country of about

17 million people. It is estimated that one in five people have a dog. Using that figure, let’s suppose there are about three million dogs in the Netherlands. My research revealed that 70,000 of those dogs get lost or stolen each year.(2.3%) Over half of them (52%) are reunited with their owners. The other 48% are re-homed by shelters or


by using online services. In fact, there are 200 shelters in the Netherlands, but unlike the overcrowded shelters in Florida, where dogs are doubled up and often euthanized for space, these shelters have manageable populations. There are many reasons that the num-

ber of dogs in shelters is so low. We need only look at the laws that exist in the Netherlands to understand.

Dutch Parliament approved a declaration which included the statement that animals have intrinsic value to be protected for their own sakes rather than the benefit of humans. Owning a dog in the Netherlands

comes with legal responsibilities and expenses. The Dutch pay a dog tax based on the number of dogs in a household and how they were obtained. Dogs must also be registered with the local town hall and the Dutch Tax Administration. It is the owner’s responsibility to register their dog with the municipality within 14 days of acquiring it. To encourage adoption of homeless pets, a higher tax is levied on buying a puppy than adopting an available shelter dog. Breeders must be registered and pay a

tax as well. Breeders and businesses that buy, sell or board pet animals must adhere to strict rules regarding identification and vac- cinations. They all must apply for a unique business number (UBN). The low rate of lost dogs can also be

Dino and Jazz in the Netherlands. Responsible pet ownership is part of

the Dutch culture. You might be surprised to learn that the Netherlands is one of a handful of countries with a political party in its parliament whose core purpose is to improve animal welfare. Animal protection associations were

formed in the 1860s and by the late 1900s, the Dutch had created several laws against animal abuse, including the Law on Animal Health and Welfare. It metes out substantial punishment for people who violate pets — abusers face up to a 17,000 euro fine (about $20,000 US) and up to three years in prison. Many other laws exist to protect ani-

mals, including the Animal Protection Act, passed in 1961, and the Experiments on Animals Act passed in 1977. In 1981, the

attributed to the Netherland’s policy of mandatory microchipping. Breeders must microchip all puppies by the time they are seven weeks old and register them within a week. All pet owners need to register their dog’s 15 digit microchip number with the Europetnet database. Imported dogs must be registered within two weeks of their arrival in the Netherlands. The microchips are standardized throughout much of Europe and lost pets can be traced from any member country. Spay and neuter is an invaluable part of

controlling stray populations and the Netherlands is a strong proponent of steril- ization with a vigorous TNR program to control feral cats. Shelters are plentiful in the Netherlands

and all have manageablepopulations. Most, like the Animal Shelter Amsterdam, offer personalized adoption counseling that does not end after the adoption. Adopters are encouraged to contact the shelter for after- care help with general care, medical prob- lems or behavioral issues.

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