Chhimi Dema 

The livestock department has conducted a pet dog population survey in Thimphu and procured 30,000 microchips to help trace their owners. 

A three-day survey that ended on October 1 recorded close to 7,200 pet dogs as part of the Accelerated Dog Population Management (ADPM) and Rabies Control Strategy to address the problem of stray dogs. 

Under the Dog Population Control Flagship Programme, the strategy aims to achieve 100 percent sterilisation of free-roaming dogs, register, and vaccinate all pet dogs, and control feral dogs.  

Head at the National Veterinary Hospital, Dr Kinley Dorji, said that the strategy ensures rabies control in the southern region of the country and contributes to meeting the global goal of zero human death from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. 

The livestock department developed 10 strategies to meet the four objectives in the next two years.  The strategies include engaging the de-suups, following catch, neuter, vaccinate, and release (CNVR) protocol for vaccination and sterilisation, as well as establishing a dog shelter for aggressive, diseased, and terminally ill dogs. 

The strategy also focuses on digital identification through the installation of a microchip in the pet dogs to ensure dog ownership, habitat control through proper waste management, and awareness of the regulation of import and in-country movement of dogs.

Microchips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, are a radio frequency identification transponder that are detected using a microchip scanner.  

Dr Kinley Dorji said that the microchips have 15 digits that allow tracing dog owners using their database. 

Engagement with the stakeholders such as the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulation Authority, thromdes, and forestry officials to collaborate, consult, and make commitments, and enforcement of livestock rules and regulations on responsible pet ownership are part of the strategies to manage the stray dog population.  

 The strategy also includes the control of feral dogs and mass dog anti-rabies vaccination in high-risk areas. 

“We need the community’s support to capture the free-roaming dogs in their localities. The dogs would be acquainted with them, so it would be easier,” Dr Kinley Dorji said. 

The survey of free-roaming dogs will be carried out from October 19 to 20. The survey was to help in planning the vaccination campaign that will be launched in November this year in Thimphu as a pilot campaign.

Since the 1900s, there have been various programmes to address the free-roaming dog issue. The Department of Livestock has the Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Programme instituted to manage the dog population. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were programmes attempting to reduce the dog population by injecting and shooting them to reduce population. 

Another attempt to control the population was made which involved translocating and ad-hoc sterilisation of the dogs. 

From 2009 until 2018, the Humane Society International, an organisation that works to promote human-animal bonds, funded the project to CNVR dogs. After that period, until 2020, the government funded CNVR. 

“Some of the programmes were unorganised and non-sustainable,” Dr Kinley Dorji said. 

Edited by Tshering Palden