Man’s Best Friend – The Meaning of Dogs Worldwide.


Studies regarding the impact of human development on non-human animals, in this case – dogs – are few and far between. This Holidays4Dogs article will consider the role of man’s best friend in an ever developing, globalised world. We consider the impact of our cultural society on animal welfare focusing particularly on the concepts of dog ownership around the world.


“Human action is embedded in a world populated by many species. By any measure, the role that animals play in human society, is enormous.” {Kruse,R.C. 2002}

Animals have always had significant impact on human way of life and vice versa. From pet owning in the UK, to globalisation and the farming trade. Different cultures, practices and political systems, all have an impact on the way we think about animals.

The way in which we treat man’s best friend – the dog, for instance –  can often reflect new social truths. In addition, the consideration of dog ownership worldwide can reflect certain inequalities within the relationship framework of human and non-human animals.


Speciesism, ultimately impacts on the way animals are treated and discriminated against. For example, in the past decade in Iran, police have periodically confiscated dogs from their owners and lectured citizens about the dangers of disease from dogs. Dogs here, are certainly not, man’s best friend.

The Cleric and representative of the Iranian supreme leader in East Azerbaijan Province, Gholamreza Hassani, has spoken out in his sermons against, in particular, “holdable” dogs.

In one of his speeches in 2001 he praised the, “honourable police and judges and all those who worked to arrest dog lovers to confiscate short-legged dogs in this city”. By 2011, a proposed bill sought to make dog ownership a punishable crime. Additionally, dog ownership, while also posing health hazards, had a far more significant cultural, (and political), nature. Not least the association with the, “blind imitation of the vulgar culture of the west”.


As British dog owners and loversdog sitting, pet sitting this sounds almost unbelievable. However, even within various societies there are conflicting realities.

In the UK and the USA, for example, pets mean a great deal to people. However, at the same time, many thousands are abandoned, or mistreated, every year.

While the numbers of dogs kept as pets in countries such as India has risen dramatically since 2014; equally, the numbers of feral dogs have increased to almost epidemic levels. This has created panic amongst governments on how to control an ever increasing problem.

The MARS pet food manufacturing group admirably promote pet ownership and pet welfare. On a global level, they are one of the first ‘western investors’ to promote their brands of pet food worldwide.


However, one could argue this only serves to encourage the exploitation, and even over-population, of pet animals. Arguably, it is the globalised pet industries who contribute to rising dog populations worldwide, including street dogs and strays both here, and abroad.

The demand for the companion pet dog increasingly means the ‘Disney’ dog. We may know them better as designer dogs – the dog which is always sexless, placid and friendly. Never aggressive, or dominant.

While MARS promotes responsible ownership on the back of a multi-million pound pet food industry, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) campaigns for millions of stray dogs around the world.


In Brazil, the burgeoning middle classes are earning more money and putting off having children. In the interim, they are buying pet dogs as substitute babies.

Indeed, Brazil is the second largest country in the world in terms of dog population. And yet, in Rio de Janeiro, there are more than 150,000 stray dogs (and cats). Many of these animals roam the streets, injured and sick.

There seems to be no long term plan by officials to address the problem, other than periodically have them euthanized. In 2007, WSPA opened a clinic in one of the poorest areas of Rio, to treat street dogs and promote responsible dog ownership.

In January 2013, dog attacks by stray dogs in Mexico resulted in the deaths of four people. Once living in domestic homes, the dogs had been carelessly abandoned to live on the streets. In some areas of Mexico, there are more dogs than people.

There are no animal welfare laws in Mexico and no means of prosecution for cruelty. In addition, Mexican attitudes towards non-neutering, means that dogs are free to roam and reproduce at alarming rates.

Global politics.

Global politics, economics, cultural identity and inequality can all impact on the canine species and animal welfare in general. The way in which animals and humans interact, should make us question human, as well as animal rights.

More importantly, perhaps, considering our historic and global relationship with dogs, it is possible to expose the behaviour of ourselves.

In particular, with regard to those in positions of power. It is often they, who use animals in a way in which enforces and imposes social, political, and economic control at local and global level.


There are significant issues when it comes to the breeding, management and training, transportation and general cultural regard towards animals worldwide. Animals, especially the canine species, contribute so much to human society – from support dogs to illegal wildlife trade sniffer dogs There is a desperate requirement for international consensus in terms of animal welfare and rights. Discrimination towards animals is connected to a much wider system of human social oppression, from which important lessons can surely be learned.