Car Accidents Caused by Stray Dogs on the Rise While TNR Courts Controversy As Taiwan’s ‘Zero Culling’ Enters Its 8th Year

Taiwan has officially implemented a “No Kill” policy since 2017. This policy has been supplemented by the measure of forced sterilization to drive the number of strays down. However, with the policy entering its eighth year, the number of stray dogs has increased instead of decreased, albeit only slightly. The total number of stray dogs in 2020 has reached 160,000, and the resulting conflicts between humans and dogs, as well as between stray dogs and wild animals, have become increasingly prominent. The most alarming aspect of this: the significant increase in the number of car accidents involving stray dogs and the number of victims associated with these accidents.

Recent reports suggested “2,959 people were either injured or killed in animal-related car accidents,” and pointed out that stray dogs accounted for the highest proportion of these animals. Data provided by the Ministry of Transport shows that in 2017 a death toll of 4 people and 1,883 injured have risen to a death toll of 11 and 2,948 injured in 2023. There are also occasional reports of stray dogs chasing motor bikes in various counties and cities, causing bikers to crash, or stray dogs suddenly crossing the road, causing traffic accidents. .

Since Taiwan implemented zero culling, nearly 160,000 dogs have been released onto the streets and into the wild, causing a variety of problems.

In demanding the Ministry of Agriculture to replace TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) with TNSA (capture, neuter, shelter, adopt), those who oppose TNR, a practice where stray dogs are sterilized before being returned to the streets, point out that the number of dogs being returned to the streets in 2022 and 2023 have exceeded 20,000 and public shelters have moved from “midway house” to become “long-term care centers,” meaning some young, healthy and family dogs have to live on the streets, losing any opportunities to be sheltered and adopted.

With the combined capacity of the 31 public shelters in Taiwan at just over 7,600, which is nowhere near enough to take in the total number of stray dogs that are in need of shelter, the majority of these stray dogs have to be put back on the streets after sterilization, making TNSA all but an infeasible prospect.

Is the plight of stray dogs in Taiwan beyond solving? The crux of the problem lies in “source management”, that is, the implementation of pet registration and compulsory sterilization specified in the “Animal Protection Act”. According to surveys by civil society groups, low pet registration rate is the root cause of the problem, with registration rate in Taipei and New Taipei City at about 60%, while the rate in southern counties and cities as low as 10%. If pet registration cannot be implemented and owners cannot be held accountable, then non-sterilization, random abandonment, and random breeding would follow, and litters of puppies will continue to arrive.

Some animal protection groups in the United States have promoted a “NO-KILL 2025” campaign in recent years, with the goal of achieving zero culling in shelters by 2025. However, their approach focuses only on sterilizing stray animals and putting them up for adoption, with little emphasis on educating pet owners on their attitude. There is little to feel optimistic about this approach.

Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are countries with no stray dogs, to whom Taiwanese can only admire from afar. The reason these countries can achieve this feat boils down to the robust laws and persistent implementation of them in these countries. In Taiwan, pet registration and microchip implantation have been included in the Animal Protection Act since 1998. Unfortunately, Taiwanese people’s law-abiding spirit has been found wanting when it comes to obeying this law.

Stray dogs have become one of the causes of traffic accidents, with the number of casualties on the rise.