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A Dog's Life: Are They All The Same?

Many of us are aware that life in the Australian Outback or on the plains of the African Serengeti would be vastly different from those living in the US or Europe. Keeping with that vein of thought, dogs also have different “lifestyles” throughout the world   and with that, here are some interesting contrasts that may surprise you.

The inclusion of dogs as members of the family is a defining trend for the US pet market currently. Retailers are scrambling to address this cultural phenomenon as it unfolds into more and more segments of the pet industry. Dogs go on vacation with us. They snuggle up with us in our beds. Is it any wonder that Fido now holds a prominent place in thousands of households across the US? In stark contrast to this however, is the United States is somewhat unique in the fact that we euthanize 2.7 million dogs and cats in shelters each year. We love our pets, however, we can't seem to acknowledge the fact that pets are a major responsibility and many pet owners, after just a few weeks, give up and let their dog or cat go only to be caught by an animal control officer later. Puppy mills, overbreeding, and lack of sterilization are other reasons that continually contribute to this alarming number of euthanized pets annually.

Latin America is fast becoming like its neighbor to the north, with a pet care boom equal in many ways to the US reaching thousands of households with more people bringing dogs into their lives for companions, rather than security. This trend is mainly attributed to two facts; rising incomes of the middle class, and a younger demographic who are putting off marriage and family for a dog. Or as they refer to it there, a “pupanion.” Chile currently has more pet dogs per person than any other country.

Like the United States, Latin American has its stark contrasts as well, there's being nutrition. For many Latin American's having access to big box store type pet stores or even just a small ma and pa storefront is unlikely so they have no choice but to feed their dogs table scraps. As any vet will tell you, having table scraps as your pet's sole source of nutrition can lead to many health related complications.

Heading east, “Far East” from the America's we arrive in China. Here is a country where the ethical treatment of dogs does not have a very humane track record. This mainly comes from the fact that China has no animal welfare laws, which leads to and explains much of the controversy that surrounds this country where dogs are concerned. Thankfully, this unfortunate trend is changing every day. Animal rights groups both foreign and domestic to China are pushing the message out for the humane treatment of dogs with three quarters of China's population now indicating a desire for improved animal welfare protections.

India is by far one of the most interesting places for dogs. Here it is not so much about the dog owners as it is about the dogs themselves. Most of India's dogs are street dogs. Not just a few here and there but millions. They coexist with people in city centers throughout the country. As a result, 36% of the world's rabies deaths occur in India. Fortunately, this number is going down due largely to the existence of the Humane Society International and a program called Capture, Neuter, Vaccinate & Return (CNVR).

The people of India have a great tolerance and compassion for street pups. Local communities, despite the fear of rabies or getting bitten, help these dogs daily by feeding them and taking care of them when they can. They may not be in a home, however they are taken care of as if they were in one.

Our final stop on this world tour is Saudi Arabia. Here the Islamic culture considers dogs to be “unclean.” As a result, Saudi nationals are often uncomfortable and afraid around animals. But attitudes are starting to change with more affluent families keeping dogs at home, however, they have to be properly classified. Saudi Arabia has an interesting law pertaining to dog ownership. All dogs have to be classified as a working dog, such as a guard dog or hunting dog, otherwise they cannot be kept as pets. In an interesting contrast to India the exact opposite exists. In Saudi Arabia cats run free in the streets and Saudis for the most part are quite fond of them mostly because the Prophet Muhammed loved cats.

Clearly we all live in a very diverse and complex world. Some might say how thankful they are for living where they do while others may wish they were somewhere else. Cultural relativism, “the grass is always greener”, approaches to understanding our world may work for some but as a wise dog owner once said, “handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.”

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