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Can You Feed Stray Dogs? Are There Problems With It?

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Man feeds stray dog on the street

Stray dogs are a common sight in some places, and they can tug on people’s heartstrings. Stray dogs often look leaner and dirtier than companion dogs. This can cause people to think that they just need some food to help them get by. Anyone technically can feed stray dogs, but the real question is should you feed them? The answer to that question, in most cases, is a resounding no.

Feeding stray dogs might seem like a helpful and ethical thing to do, but it also has a slew of problems. It can be dangerous, it can be harmful to the dogs, and it can cause conflict between neighbors. If you have the urge to feed a local stray dog, repress it. You really shouldn’t feed stray dogs. Here is why.

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The 5 Problems With Feeding Stray Dogs

1. Stray Dogs Can Be Unpredictable

The white stray dog is showing her scary teeth lying down on the ground
Image Credit: NMTD MEDIA, Shutterstock

One of the biggest problems with feeding stray dogs is that they can be unpredictable. Since the dogs live in the wild, they do not have the same habits and manners as companion dogs. Stray dogs can bite people, attack children, fight with other dogs and become territorial over spaces where you are feeding them. In the wild, these are natural behaviors, but they are not safe behaviors for people. Feeding stray dogs can open you up to these kinds of dangerous behaviors by strange dogs.

2. It Affects the Whole Neighborhood

Feeding stray dogs can affect the whole neighborhood. You might think that you are doing a good deed, but your neighbors might not agree. Since stray dogs can be dangerous and unpredictable, few people want them around in residential areas. Feeding stray dogs will cause them to stick around, and it might even attract larger numbers of strays to congregate in the area. That can quickly become a point of conflict between you and other people in the area. Some people don’t like pet dogs, much less stray dogs.

3. Stray Dogs Can Carry Dangerous Diseases

stray dog standing on the road
Image Credit: balouriarajesh, Pixabay

Stray dogs can also carry diseases. Some of these diseases can be spread from the stray dog population to local residential dogs. If stray dogs have parasites or worms, they can be spread to pet dogs through their feces. The most concerning and dangerous disease that stray dogs could carry is rabies. According to the CDC, rabies kills an estimated 59,000 people per year worldwide and is not something to be trifled with.

4. Stray Dogs Rarely Need Your Help

In the vast majority of cases, stray dogs do not need your help to get food or water. Stray dogs are perfectly capable of feeding themselves. Giving stray dogs human food or dog food can actually make them sick since they are not used to eating it. Your dog at home might be fine with pizza crust and kibble, but a dog that has lived outside its whole life will not be adapted to this kind of food.

5. It Can Be Illegal

Yellow please do not feed the dogs sign on metal fence
Image Credit: stockphotofan1, Shutterstock

In many places, feeding wildlife is illegal. Generally, feeding wild animals on public lands is always illegal. If you are caught feeding stray dogs (or if your grumpy neighbors turn you in), you could face fines and receive warnings that will make the punishments stiffer if you continue. Many of the reasons for these laws are the same ones we have already listed here. Wildlife is unpredictable. Wildlife (including stray dogs) can carry diseases, they don’t need human food, and they can become a nuisance.

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What to Do If You Are Worried About a Stray Dog

If you are worried about a stray dog and want to help it, you can call your local animal shelter or animal control officer. You should only report stray dogs if they pose a danger to local people, are being a nuisance, or look emaciated or injured. The officers will be able to determine if the dog is missing or if it is a true stray.

Some strays will be spayed and neutered and relocated to a better location. Other strays will be given care and prepped for adoption if they are deemed safe for people to own. Most regular people need to be qualified to make these determinations on their own, and they should let local authorities deal with stray dogs to avoid any mishaps or problems.

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People should avoid feeding stray dogs when possible. These dogs do not need your help to survive and coming in contact with stray dogs can pose a risk to your personal safety and can cause health risks for the whole neighborhood. If you find yourself fretting over the health and well-being of a stray dog, call your local animal shelter and have a professional come out and deal with the dog. Relying on professionals is the best way to handle these stray animals. Feeding stray dogs might feel right and seem like a good idea at the moment, but experts agree that it is almost always the wrong decision.

Featured Image Credit: matsiukpavel, Shutterstock

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