In Serbia, it is generally believed that animals in western countries have more rights than the average Serbian. The well-dressed and happy looking pets I’ve seen in the Netherlands, and the fact that the Dutch even have an animal rights party in the parliament make me think that the Serbian wisdom is true.
Statistics show that about 40% of Dutchies are pet owners, and every fifth is a dog owner. Amazingly, the Netherlands is the only country without any stray dogs. The official news headline was: “The Netherlands keeps the streets stray dog-free and homes full of love.” Still, I have 35 emails from rental agencies that refute this claim. Currently, I am searching for my new Maastricht home, but my wish to be reunited with my dog seems to have crossed some invisible line in this ‘pet-loving‘ country. The consistent rejection pushed me into researching Dutch pet-friendly facts. It turns out that Dutch statistics are actually like a bikini – it shows you a lot, but reveals nothing. For example, the Dutch stats I’ve seen do not reveal that the Netherlands is among the top 10 countries known for animal cruelty. Also, it does not tell you that the Dutch banned pit bull terriers in 1993, and massively “destroyed” many of them; even dogs that vaguely resembled pit bulls. I wonder whether the same destiny met those stray dogs. Or were they all adopted overnight by a miracle? Some things are better left unknown.
To be fair, the agencies/landlords do sometimes write: “A cat would be considered.” I really don’t know what they are trying to tell me – that I made a wrong choice? About the country of residence or my pet? Maybe I should just introduce my notorious black labrador as a black panther, which officially is a cat. Also, it makes me wonder how did cats won humans’ sympathy? Did their main quality – the ability to tolerate extreme neglect – appealed to Dutch laziness? Or was it the lack of emotional attachment, self-absorption, or the odour they bring to the home? I have lived with my flatmates' cats - this does not make me a cat person, just Jelli and Bean's person - and I can say that their odour will hit you as the smell of De Alla after 4’oclock in the morning. Dogs at least understand humans’ rights regarding toilets and do their business outside. That is, aside from warm welcoming and genuine caring, at least one advantage of living with a dog. However, it might very well be that my dog and I will become the first stray pack in the Netherlands after such a long time. Maybe somebody will adopt us, eventually.
Irena Boskovic, Ph.D. Candidate Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience