Street dog

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Street dogs at a crosswalk in Bucharest

Street dogs, known in scientific literature as free-ranging urban dogs[1] or urban free-ranging dogs,[2] are unconfined dogs that live in cities. They live virtually wherever cities exist, especially in the developing world and the former second world, and the local human population allows. Street dogs may be pets which have strayed from or are simply allowed freedom by their owners, or may never have had an owner. Street dogs may be stray purebreds, true mixed-breed dogs, or unbred landraces such as the Indian pariah dog. Street dog overpopulation can cause problems for the societies in which they live, so campaigns to spay and neuter them are sometimes implemented. They tend to differ from rural free-ranging dogs in their skill sets, socialization, and ecological effects.


Street dogs
A street dog
Street dogs

In much of Africa and Eurasia, most free-roaming dogs are not true mixed-breed dogs, a literal mix of one or more purebred dogs. Instead, they are descended from the same original landrace of dogs from which purebred dogs were originally created and which have existed since humans started living in settlements. They have always been scavengers living on human cast-offs and handouts. In addition to scavenging, individual street dogs are widely kept as uncontained pets by urban slum households.

Problems caused by street dogs[edit]

Street dogs


Outbreaks of rabies are often traced to unvaccinated street dogs, one of the most common carriers of the painful and deadly disease.


To survive, street dogs need to avoid conflict with humans. However, dog bites can occur when dogs are trying to mate or fighting among themselves, and pedestrians and other humans in the vicinity may be bitten by fighting dogs. In addition, females with pups are often protective and may bite people who approach their litter.

Quality of life[edit]

Barking and howling and dog fights which invariably take place over mating among dogs can be very disturbing to people, and the smell of dog urine which is an unsavory product of territory marking can become quite pungent, especially among unspayed or neutered dogs, not to mention the presence of feces.

Skills and adaptations[edit]

To survive in modern cities, street dogs must be able to navigate traffic.

Street dog riding the subway

Some of the stray dogs in Bucharest are seen crossing the large streets at pedestrian crosswalks. The dogs have probably noticed that when humans cross streets at such markings, cars tend to stop.[3] The dogs have accustomed themselves to the flow of pedestrian and automobile traffic; they sit patiently with the people at the curb when they are stopped for a red light, and then cross with them as if a daily routine.[4]

Free-ranging urban dogs by country[edit]


In India, the local landrace, known as the Indian pariah dog, has been estimated to have existed for perhaps fourteen thousand years or more. Part of the urban population consists of mongrels or mix-breeds–descended from pure-breed dogs that have been allowed to interbreed with pariahs.

As a result of the virtual extermination by the veterinary drug diclofenac of the vultures which formerly ate animal carcasses and well as dead humans, urban India has two features which create and sustain street dog populations: large amounts of exposed animal carcasses, which provide an abundant source of food, and a huge population of slum and street-dwellers whose way of life includes keeping the dogs as free-roaming pets.[5] For example, Mumbai has over 12 million human residents, of whom over half are slum-dwellers. At least five hundred tons of garbage remain uncollected daily. Therefore, conditions are perfect for supporting a particularly large population of stray dogs. India has the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world (estimated at 35,000 per annum).[6]


Locally known as Askals, street dogs in the Philippines, while sometimes exhibiting mixing with breed dogs from elsewhere, are generally native unbred mongrel dogs.


See article Street dogs in Bucharest

In Romania, free-ranging urban dogs (called in Romanian câini maidanezi, literally "wasteland dogs", câini comunitari "community dogs", etc.) have become a huge problem especially in larger cities. Estimations for Bucharest vary widely, officials saying there are about 40,000 stray dogs[7] or 60,000,[8] while other sources push those estimates to 100,000 or even 200,000.[9]

People are bitten and there have been reports of people mauled to death by stray dogs, which sometimes attack in packs.[9][10]


Stray dog pups from Russia
Feral puppies in Bucharest
Stray dog from Greece

Free-ranging dogs are serious problem of the Serbian cities and rural areas, where they are attacked by people, including children.[11] The total number of free-ranging dogs in Serbia is estimated at several tens of thousands,[12] of which the largest groups could be found in Belgrade (more than 17,000), Novi Sad (about 10,000), Niš (between 7,000 and 10,000), Subotica (about 8,000) and Kragujevac (about 5,000).[13]




Puerto Rico[edit]

  • Sato, street dogs of Puerto Rico

In culture[edit]

Viaţă de câine (A dog's life) (1998), a Romanian documentary movie by Alexandru Solomon.

Sag-e welgard (The Stray Dog) (1942), a fiction novel by Sadegh Hedayat.


  1. ^ Daniels, T.J. (July 1983). "The social organization of free-rangingurbandogs. I. Non-estrous social behavior". Applied Animal Ethology 10 (4): 341–363. doi:10.1016/0304-3762(83)90184-0. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Pal, Sunil Kumar (2001). "Population ecology of free-ranging urban dogs in West Bengal, India". Acta Theriologica 46 (1). doi:10.1007/BF03192418. ISSN 0001-7051. Retrieved 5 October 2012. "A population of urban free-ranging dogsCanis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Katwa, West Bengal, India. The analysis of changes in the density of the dog population over a period of 4 years revealed a considerable stability of this population. Mean (±SD)2 seasonal population density was" 
  3. ^ "Stray Dogs Offered as Pedestrian Role Models : Discovery News". 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  4. ^ "Romanian police recruit stray dogs for road safety lessons". The Raw Story. 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  5. ^ Markandyaa, Anil; Taylor, Tim; Longo, Alberto; Murtyd, M.N.; Murtyd, S. and Dhavalad, K.; ‘Counting the cost of vulture decline—An appraisal of the human health and other benefits of vultures in India’; Ecological Economics 67 (2), 15 September 2008, pp 194–204
  6. ^ Gardiner, Harris (6 August 2012). "Where Streets Are Thronged With Strays Baring Fangs". New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Mihai Cristian Atănăsoaei, Prefect of Bucharest, quoted by, "Prefectura Bucureşti: Câinii diagnosticaţi cu boli grave, transmisibile la om, ar putea fi eutanasiaţi", April 11, 2012
  8. ^ Robert Lorentz, Director of the Authority for Animal Control and Protection, quoted by, "Eutanasierea câinilor, doar cu referendum", November 23, 2011
  9. ^ a b Brown, Adam (2006-01-30). "Bucharest Plans Crackdown on Stray Dogs After Executive Savaged". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  10. ^ "BBC News - Dogs maul Romanian woman to death". 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  11. ^ "Otrovano 5 pasa u Nišu : Hronika : Južne vesti". Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  12. ^ "Napadi pasa lutalica". 2011-04-30. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  13. ^ [1][dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Beck, Alan M .1973. The ecology of stray dogs: A study of free-ranging urban animals. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press e-books.
  • Ecollage. 2002. Dog Population Management & Canine Rabies Control. India's Official Dog Control Program in an international context. Pune. pp. 1–9
  • Irvine, Leslie. 2003. "The Problem of Unwanted Pets: A Case Study in How Institutions "Think" about Clients' Needs" in Social Problems. Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 550–566
  • Kato Masahiko, Hideki Yamamoto, Yoshihide Inukai and Shohei Kira. 2203. "Survey of the Stray Dog Population and the Health Education Program on the Prevention of Dog Bites and Dog-Acquired Infections: A Comparative Study in Nepal and Okayama Prefecture, Japan" in Acta Med. Okayama, Vol. 57. No. 5, pp. 261–266

External links[edit]