Yugita Gurung  &  Manisha Chapagai | Interns

At least two people were bitten by dogs every day in the past six months on the streets of Thimphu, JDWNRH hospital record shows.

Victims are as young as one-year-olds, senior citizens, housewives, civil servants, monks, construction workers, and farmers, among others.

The national referral hospital recorded 1,547 in 2020 and 415 cases between January and June this year.

However, doctors at the emergency department said that there have been no cases of rabies and fatal injuries.

National Centre for Animal Health deputy chief veterinarian, Dr Sonam Pelden said: “The most vulnerable age group, however, are the children and senior citizens.”

Leki Chozom, 24, said that she stopped going on walks for fear of being bitten by the strays. She suggested taking them to pounds due to the increasing cases.

A girl living next to her shop was attacked by a pack of strays while she was drying clothes outside. It became gory. She reported the case to the police. “Often we hear minors being bitten too.”

Dorji Tshomo, 85, was bitten twice recently. “I reported the incidents but as it was a stray dog no one could be held responsible.”

The city police station officials said that the cases come under reckless endangerment in the cases involving pets. “The owner can only be penalised in case of his carelessness and negligence that lead to others harm or if they do not put up signs for dog awareness,” an official said.

Dr Sonam Pelden said to address the stray dog problems, a dog population management campaign was launched in Thimphu in March this year as part of the National Waste Management and Stray Dog Population Control Flagship Programme.

The program aimed to catch, neuter, vaccinate and release to improve the health of dogs, reduce the number of free-roaming dogs through birth control, promote responsible dog ownership and reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases from dogs.

The campaign between March 25 and May 19 vaccinated and sterilised 1,814 animals including 114 cats. Of the 1,700 dogs, 1,405 were strays, 224 were pets and 71 were from the shelter.

According to the deputy chief veterinary officer Dr Sonam Pelden, lack of community support is the main problem in Thimphu. “Community engagement is crucial and plays a pivotal role in the management of the dog population. Dog control is a social issue and it affects everyone.”

She said that people in communities should ensure the accountability and responsibility of the dogs by vaccinating and sterilising them.

Sonam said: “The ongoing program and strategies are not a quick fix and it would take years to see the impact.”

Edited by Tshering Palden