Thinley Namgay   

The wellbeing centres looking after injured animals are struggling with shortage of staff, food items and medical supplies amid the lockdown.

Animal caring associations such as Jangsa Animal Saving Trust (JAST), Bhutan Animal Rescue and Care (BARC) and Maya Foundation-Barnyard Bhutan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary are desperately waiting for the government to end the lockdown to provide proper services.

Jangsa Animal Saving Trust’s (JAST)  programme manager, Sonam Norzin said that the association had stored rice and other food items before lockdown. However, he said the food stock may not be sufficient if the lockdown continues.

“JAST is also receiving leftover food from de-suups which significantly supplements the animal feed,” said Sonam Norzin.

He said that animals undergoing active treatment and care at the shelter were short of medical supplies but procuring the needed supplies becomes a challenge.  “We are trying to manage and put in our effort to ensure that the animals are not deprived of their most basic needs.”

National Veterinary Hospital has been helping animal associations with necessary medical intervention.

Half of the JAST staff are stuck at their respective residents due to the lockdown. Animals are taking care of by a few at the shelters.

“The patients are brought to our clinic by de-suups.  There are not many cases of animals run over by cars during the lockdown,” said Sonam Norzin.

Currently, JAST has 81 animals at the shelter including 70 dogs, eight pigs and three disabled bulls. Of the 70 dogs, 40 are sick, and others are old and disabled.

BARC’s Board Secretary, Hendrik Visser said the centre had to look after 400 animals and human resource was a major challenge. “Especially the first four days of the lockdown were challenging as we did not have any of our staff. At present we still have only 30 percent of our staff.”

“As some of our key staff are unable to come, we can sadly no longer do surgeries, physiotherapy and other treatments,” said Hendrik Visser.

BARC received phone calls from people with treatment requests for their sick or injured pets and stray dogs around their homes.

“We cannot provide services on time. We can also no longer provide treatment for our out-patients with regular medical needs such as cancer treatment with chemotherapy. We do give advice over WhatsApp and phone, but that is not always enough, which is tragic,” said Hendrik Visser.

BARC also has an animal feed shortage, especially the fruits and vegetables for the 40 rescued monkeys. The centre has an emergency stock to feed animals for several weeks but lacks perishable food items for some animals.

Before the lockdown, BARC staff used to take leftover vegetables from the Centenary Farmers Market and vegetable shops daily which has stopped now.

“During the lockdown, sick and injured dogs go unnoticed. We are also unable to pick-up sick and injured dogs when we are notified.”

The executive director of Maya Foundation-Barnyard Bhutan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, Jamie Vaughan, said that the foundation had to buy clothes, sleeping bags, mattresses, cooking items for the remaining 11 staff.

“Many had only the clothes on their backs when lockdown started as they couldn’t go home,” Jamie Vaughan said.

The centre in Paro is short of staff as 11 staff have to look after approximately 500 animals such as horses, mules, cats, dogs, goats, pigs and cattle.

Jamie Vaughan said that people of Lamgong gewog had been supporting so far. “We continue to receive new patients daily, but there are challenges such as lack of space and resources.”

The foundation is in need of more blankets, old clothes, firewood, and sawdust. “We had just bought a big consignment of rice from FCBL before lockdown. For the livestock, Karma Feed is available, and we have dry grass, and paddy straw stocked,” said Jamie Vaughan.