Monday 2 April 2012

The Lucky Feral Cats of Holland

Holland has an advanced, humane and sensible approach to animal welfare. It must be one of the best countries in respect of animal welfare. They have a very long standing animal welfare organisation, The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals (DSPA) that was founded in 1864. It has 200,000 volunteers!

The DSPA has had some landmark successes in influencing the creation of national animal welfare legislation and their influence in this regard goes back to the late 1800s.

The society influenced the basic methodology of the drafting of the Animal and Welfare Act in 1992. On the society's recommendation, the Act is based on the "no-unless" principle. The fundamental premise of this principle is that there should be no practices that hurt animals unless it is provided for in legislation. It puts the onus on those who might hurt animals for the sake of commerce to argue that it is justified. It is the animal that takes priority over the person. Excellent concept.

There are 110 shelters in Holland and all are affiliated to the DSPA. There appears to have been a stray cat problem in 1996 as the population of cats at shelters had increased dramatically since 1992 to 31,100. The solution? In 1997 all shelter cats plus 15, 000 owned cats plus 3,000 feral cats where spayed and neutered (48,800 cats in all). That is the kind of positive, no nonsense action that should happen elsewhere.

A national sterilization program was implemented in the late 1900s. Perhaps there has to be a long history of animal welfare in a country before it has an impact. But in Holland great things were happening over 100 years ago. Wouldn't it be nice if the animal welfare societies in the United States could put pressure to bear on the US government to ban declawing nationwide and deal with the feral cat problem in a similar manner?

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