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Is it Ok to Feed Stray Dogs? (Vet Approved Reasons & Advice)


Mar 15, 2023
A Brown Dog Eating Its Food


A Brown Dog Eating Its Food
Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

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When you see a stray dog, it can be tempting to bring them food. However, feeding them may not always be the best decision. Feeding stray dogs can cause unexpected problems for your family, neighbors, pets, and the stray dog. But if feeding a stray dog isn’t advised, then what can you do? Thankfully, there are ways that you can help.


The 5 Reasons Not to Feed Stray Dogs

There are several reasons why feeding a stray dog is discouraged. Although feeding a stray dog may come with the best of intentions, it often results in unexpected and unwanted consequences. Take a look at some of the undesirable results of feeding stray dogs.

1. Feeding Stray Dogs Does Not Solve the Real Problem

While feeding a stray dog may give it a meal, the meal does not do anything to fix the root of the issue: the unchecked population of stray dogs. Giving food to stray dogs outside of an established TNR (trap-neuter-release) program only increases the population of stray dogs.

Feeding stray dogs also does not save them from the situation that they are stuck in. It does not protect them from inclement weather, diseases, or people and animals that may wish to bring them harm.

Feeding Stray Dogh
Image Credit: Peerawat Aupala, Shutterstock

2. Stray Dog Populations Increase the Spread of Disease

Whether through parasites, bacteria, or viral infections, stray dogs can pass diseases to your pets. Some of these diseases may be zoonotic and can be passed to humans.

Some of these diseases can be extremely dangerous. For instance, if a stray dog has rabies and infects you or your pet, there could be lethal consequences.

3. Feeding Stray Dogs Can Increase the Chances of Injury

When you leave food for a stray animal, other animals in the area will be drawn to it. This causes a congregation of wild animals, homeless animals, and local pets. Animals may become territorial over the food and attack each other for it.

In some instances, humans may be at higher risk of injury. The more stray dogs linger around the community, the higher the chances are of a hostile encounter with a stray dog. Likewise, stray dogs may run out into the road and cause roadway accidents, with the possibility of either party being injured or killed in the process.

stray dog with painful wounds who live on the streets
Image Credit: Wichaiwish, Shutterstock

4. You May Cause a Neighborhood Conflict

Stray dogs can damage property and threaten the safety of pets and children. If you are encouraging stray dogs to come around, you are putting your neighbors at risk. Your neighbor’s ire is the best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, a pet or child is injured or killed, and the stray is euthanized.

5. You Can’t Control Which Animal You Are Feeding

Although your intention is to feed the sweet-looking stray dog in your area, you don’t have any power to control precisely which animal you are feeding. By setting food outdoors, you attract both stray and wild animals. You may attract nuisances like rodents and skunks, but you may also attract much more dangerous predators. Wild animals that learn to associate humans with food may become more hostile towards them.

two brown dogs running on snow on grass
Image Credit: Vincent van Zalinge, Unsplash

divider-dog pawWhat Can You Do to Help?

So, if feeding a stray animal is not the best decision, what can you do? Thankfully, there are ways you can help.

1. Call the Authorities

If the stray dog is behaving aggressively or appears to be infected, do not attempt to approach it yourself. Instead, reach out to your local authorities, so trained professionals can humanely capture and care for it.

two women at an animal shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

2. Kindly Capture and Contain the Stray Dog

If you feel safe enough to do so, capture the stray dog with gentleness and care. Use a calm, soft voice to keep the stray dog at ease. While trying to capture it, you can use food to lure it. Once you have captured the dog, contain it with a leash outdoors or in a crate.

Check the dog for any tags. If there is a tag with contact information, reach out to the individual immediately.

3. Get the Stray Dog Checked for a Microchip

If you cannot find any tags on the stray dog, call your local authorities. They will most likely transport the lost dog to a shelter where it can be scanned for a microchip. If no microchip is found, the stray can remain at the shelter, where it is more likely that its owner will find it if it has an owner.

Dog Microchip
Image Credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

4. Distribute Pictures of the Stray Dog

Whether you use missing posters or an online neighborhood group, distributing photos of the stray dog can help get it back to its owner as soon as possible.


No one wants to see an animal suffer alone, and the temptation to provide food for stray dogs is strong. However, feeding stray dogs creates opportunities for many undesirable consequences, so feeding them is not advised. Still, there are ways that you can help any homeless animals that you find. By contacting your local animal control authorities and distributing information about the stray dog, you can do your best to find a safe and happy home for the dog.

Featured Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels

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