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Three feral dogs from Bucharest, Romania.

Free-ranging urban dog refers to populations of stray dogs on the streets of urban areas throughout India, the former Soviet Union and the Balkans.


Stray dogs

Stray dogs are domestic dogs that have been abandoned by the owner or have accidentally been released into the urban area. Stray dogs can be found wandering around in packs or solo. Some are pets, some are former pets and some have never been pets at all (born on the streets).

Why do stray dogs exist?

According to the Indian NGO Welfare for Stray Dogs (WSD): "Most free-roaming dogs belong to an ancient canine race known as the pariah dog, which has existed all over Asia and Africa ever since human beings started living in settlements. They are, and have always been, scavengers–that is, they live on garbage created by humans. In India the breed has existed for perhaps 14,000 years or more. In addition to scavenging, they are widely kept as pets by rural and urban slum households

Much of the urban stray population consists of mongrels or mix-breeds–descended from pure-breed dogs who have been allowed by their owners to interbreed with pariahs

The size of stray dog populations always corresponds to the size and character of the human population of the area. Urban India has two features which create and sustain stray dog populations: |accessdate = 2007-05-16}}</ref>

1) Large amounts of exposed garbage, which provide an abundant source of food

2) A huge population of slum and street-dwellers, who often keep the dogs as free-roaming pets

Mumbai has over 12 million human residents, of whom over half are slum-dwellers. At least 500 tonnes of garbage remain uncollected daily. Therefore conditions are perfect for supporting a particularly large population of stray dogs."

Problems caused by stray dogs

According to W.S.D: "Haphazard urban planning and human overpopulation have led to a correspondingly huge population of stray dogs in most Indian cities. They cause the following problems:

Rabies– a fatal disease which can be transmitted to humans. Although all warm-blooded animals can get and transmit rabies, dogs are the most common carrier. India has the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world (estimated at 35,000 per annum)

Dog bites- Most occur when dogs are trying to mate and fighting among themselves–pedestrians and other humans in the vicinity often get bitten accidentally. Females with pups to protect may also be aggressive and bite people who approach their litter

Barking and howling–an accompaniment to dog fights which invariably take place over mating."

Urine- Smells of urine to mark territory

Free-ranging urban dogs in Romania

In Romania free-ranging urban dogs are usually referred to as: câinii maidanezi, maidanezii (ownerless and stray dogs – the strays), câinii comunitari (community/communitarian dogs), câinii vagabonzi (vagabond dogs), or câinii străzii (street-dogs). The online Romanian Explicative Dictionary lists the word maidanez as a noun or adjective denoting both ownerless dogs and vagrant, stray dogs (câine fără stăpân, câine vagabond). According to the same source, there is also the word vagabond, which is a noun or an adjective referring to humans and animals alike. According to estimations in Bucharest in year 2000 used to live 200,000 of free-ranging urban dogs.


In Moscow, stray dogs are known to take the subway from the suburbs into the city during the day to search for food and to take the subway back home at night.[1][2]

In culture

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

See also


External links

  • is a reference, news, and discussion site dedicated to the issue of stray dogs, especially in Romania.
  • is a specific section on stray dogs from a website on “beasts, giants & creatures of nature in Bulgaria”
  • [1] is a Mumbai-based organization working to eradicate rabies and control the street-dog population in a humane, scientific way.

Further reading

  • 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


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