Stray Dogs Survey: Research
Our research to date on stray dogs
Project Lead: Dr Lauren Harris
Key People: Dr Robert Christley, Lee Paris (Campaigns Team), Penny Gardner (Campaigns Team)
Project background and summary
Since 1997, Dogs Trust has commissioned an annual survey of local authority dog wardens and environmental health officers in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. From 1997-2019 the Stray Dogs Survey was managed by an external market research company, on Dogs Trust’s behalf. The company distributed the survey to Local Authorities, analysed the data, and produced a report. In 2020 the management of the Stray Dogs Survey was brought in-house for the first time and all aspects were managed by Dogs Trust research and campaigns teams. We collect and analyse the data, before compiling a report.
The team are also in the process of reviewing how the Stray Dogs Survey data is used by the organisation, and whether the survey needs to be adapted to better suit the needs of both Dogs Trust and the Local Authorities with whom we work.
The results of the Stray Dogs Survey
Our results are used to determine the following (not an exhaustive list):
- The estimated number of stray/unwanted dogs that are handled by UK LAs each year
- How these dogs enter Local Authority care (e.g., handed in by a member of the public, seized as a stray, handed over by the police)
- The outcomes of these dogs (e.g., returned to owner, rehomed, passed on to welfare organisations, put to sleep)
- Numbers of dogs microchipped
- Factors relating to reuniting dogs with their owners (e.g., up to date microchips, collar, and tag with owner contact details etc.)
This information has been used by Dogs Trust to examine trends over time, and to help determine where to allocate resources for campaigns.
The problem, and its context within Dogs Trust
Overall, the estimated number of stray dogs in the UK year by year (as calculated from the Stray Dogs Survey figures) has declined steadily, with an upsurge following the 2008 financial crisis. Nevertheless, there was still an estimated 49,292 dogs handled by Local Authorities across the UK in the 2019-2020 period.
One of Dogs Trust’s key strategic aims, in terms of human behaviour change, is to encourage responsible relinquishment. The Stray Dogs Survey can provide us with information to estimate how many dogs are being abandoned by their owners, and regional differences in these figures, which could help us target our activities.
With reports of increased puppy sales as a result of the pandemic, we believe it is especially important to collect data on dogs being relinquished or abandoned in the coming years, in order to determine whether a surge in dog ownership may lead to an increase in the number of dogs arriving into the care of Local Authorities.