Thinley Namgay 

To achieve zero dogs mediated human rabies by 2030, a dog population management (DPM) programme kicked off yesterday in Thimphu.

Besides it expects to reduce the stray dog population to a manageable level in public places with 95 percent sterilisation coverage. The programme attempts to convert the ratio of owned and strays from existing 30:70 to 70:30 through adoption, and 100 percent registration and sterilisation of dogs.

As of June last year, there were about 33,000 stray dogs in the country. Of that, 7,000 are in Thimphu, 5,000 in Phuentsholing,  4,000 in Gelephu and 3,000 in Samdrupjongkhar.

As per the Department of Livestock’s (DoL) survey in May last year, Thimphu Thromde and peri-urban areas have 13,000 dogs, of which about 6,000 are stray dogs, and around 4,000 dogs were not sterilised.

The programme implemented by the National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH) under the DoL was launched yesterday by Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji who is the chairperson of the National Waste Management and Stray Dog Population Control Flagship Programme.

The DoL will implement the programme with relevant stakeholders such as Thimphu Thromde, Animal Welfare Organizations (AWOs), BTFEC, desuups, Thimphu Dzongkhag Administration, and other volunteers.

“The field clinics for the campaign will be in three strategic locations in North Thimphu, core town area and South Thimphu to achieve maximum coverage and to ensure that animal welfare is not compromised in transportation,” a press release from DoL stated.

The campaign will begin from the core town area in Chubachu, and the locations in North and South Thimphu will be covered subsequently.

NCAH’s Principal Livestock Health Officer, Dr Hiruka Mahat, said that the nationwide survey of dogs and cat in 2018 showed that only 30 percent of the pets had legitimate owners. “We want to reverse this by doing an aggressive campaign and encouraging people to adopt dogs.”

He said that local governments and AWOs are not technically developed like abroad. “In other countries, all the social nuisance such as stray dogs are taken care of by the local governments. NCAH will provide technical support to them, but they should provide logistic support.”

Dr Hiruka Mahat said that AWOs have many volunteers and animal lovers who can raise awareness on stray dogs. “Just feeding the animals is not enough because veterinary services and pet owners should be ensured. The local government and AWOs should take ownership of awareness and policy,” he said.

The DPM programme in Bumthang that started a month ago has sterilised and vaccinated more than 300 dogs as of last week.

“We cannot go to southern dzongkhags due to the pandemic, but we will give funds for the local authorities to do small scale activities,” said Dr Hiruka Mahat.

After Bumthang, the DPM programme will be organised in Tsirang, Zhemgang, and Trashigang, respectively. Local government, AWOs and relevant stakeholders will also be involved in the programme.

In 2020, the DPM programme was successfully conducted in Haa and Paro with over 93 percent sterilisation and anti-rabies vaccination coverage with 3,685 dogs sterilised and vaccinated against rabies.

The public is asked to take their dogs to the campaign sites for sterilisation and vaccination.

DPM programme, which focuses on the catch, neuter, vaccinate and release protocol, targets to improve the health and welfare of owned and un-owned dog population, reduce numbers of stray dogs through enhanced animal birth control, and promote responsible dog ownership.