The second dog population survey found that 60-80 percent of dogs in Bhutan are sterilised and vaccinated, a press release from Humane Society International (HSI) states.

About 85,000 dogs across the country have been sterilised and given anti-rabies vaccination since the launch of National Dog Population Management (NDPM) and Rabies Control Project in 2009.

HSI and Department of Livestock, conducted the second dog population survey from June 24 to July 10 this year.

The survey included street dog population count and a Knowledge Attitude Practice (KAP) survey.

According to the press release, the survey found that 21 percent of urban households in Thimphu and Paro city, and 40 percent of rural households own a pet dog.

According to the survey, no dogs in Thimphu were found with canine transmissible venereal tumors (CTVT). “CTVT were common among street dogs before the project started in 2009. The HSI team suggests this to be the direct consequence of the NDPM programme,” the press release states.

Senior programme manager of monitoring and evaluation with HIS, India, Dr Amit Chaudhari, said that after almost 10 years of the sterilisation project, developing trends can be seen. “We conducted the first survey for Bhutan in 2015 in which we found high sterilisation rate in urban areas like Thimphu and Paro city while in rural area it was quite low. Now, three years later, we can compare both situations and learn more about complex dog dynamics.”

The first survey found 67 percent street dogs in Thimphu city and 73.8 percent in Paro were sterilised while 45.5 percent of the street dogs in Thimphu rural areas and 57.6 percent in Paro rural area were sterilised.

According to the manager of  research and development, HSI UK office, Tamara Kartal, the number of sterilisations performed in towns such as Paro has changed little over the last years with about 1,500 dogs being sterilised each year. “Maintaining high sterilisation rates and continuing sterilisation efforts should have resulted in a decreased dog density. Our June 2018 street counts, however, show quite the opposite trend with significantly increased dog densities for both Paro and Thimphu, indicating that the source of new dogs (the source appears to not only be puppies born to roaming dogs) has not been adequately addressed yet.”

She said that newly available resources such as increased human and hotel density, which increases meat shop density and available garbage may have sustained the increased dog population. “Our preliminary observations suggest that dog behaviour varies significantly between dog packs within urban areas but also comparatively between dogs encountered in rural vs urban areas. Abandonment of adult dogs and puppies born and sired by owned dogs contribute to an unknown (and yet unaddressed) degree to the roaming dog population in especially urban areas of Bhutan.”

The second dog population survey counted the street dog and household pet dog population, and documented attitudes and practices of humans towards their dogs.

The street dog population survey was conducted in eight dzongkhags -Thimphu, Paro, Samtse, Chukha, Bumthang, Trashignag, Sarpang and Samdrupjongkhar.

A household pet dog survey was conducted in Thimphu and Paro valley to document pet information, history of dog bites and general attitudes related to street dogs. The responsibility and commitment level of the owners, whether the dog is allowed to roam freely or not, and the health and well-being of the dog were also assessed.

Deputy chief veterinary officer with Bhutan’s National Centre for Animal Health, Dr Hiruka Mahat, said that the Monitoring Evaluation Impact Assessment, which includes the KAP survey and street dog count, are vital tools to gauge the impact the NDPM and Rabies Control Project had on having a sustainable dog population in the country.

“The KAP survey has helped us determine any improvement in community knowledge and perceptions towards free-roaming dogs and its control programme and how the public perception has changed over time,” he said.  “This would enable us to have appropriate strategies in place that would go a long way in achieving the project goals.”

Karma Cheki