Choki Wangmo

If stray dog adoption is to become a successful tale to reduce the number of stray dogs, everyone needs to support the idea and collectively come together, said Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during Meet the Press last week.

On February 21, Lyonchhen announced that the move was one of the activities to which Bhutanese could commit and offer it as a gift on His Majesty The King’s 40th birth anniversary. “It is an opportunity for every Bhutanese to give back individually.”

Although there were no solid strategies to materialise the idea as of now, adoption of stray dog would require multiple approaches, Prime Minister said.

One of the approaches would be to make adoption attractive through incentives. For instance, one of the methods would be to either provide information on sterilised dogs through a website so that the volunteers have options to adopt or give options for adopters to choose a dog and take it for sterilisation.

The other option could be to form dog adopters’ club where the members have certain benefits such as easy access to services such as in hospitals and banks, Lyonchhen said. “I hope Bhutanese will change mindset and take it positively,” adding the success of the programme depends on how Bhutanese come together and support each other for a noble cause.

“There are hardly 10,000 stray dogs in the country. If every Bhutanese commits to the initiative, the impactful one-off initiative could reduce the fertility rate of stray dogs,” Lyonchhen said.

According to records, until March last year, about 388 dog bite cases were reported at Thimphu referral hospital every month averaging about 13 cases a day.  In 2018, the hospital recorded an average of 346 cases every month.  

Although there were dog vaccination and sterilisation programmes, the effort to curb the stray population and related nuisance was insignificant due to lack of support from the public to catch dogs. 

A total of 95,000 dogs were sterilised and vaccinated across the country during three phases of campaign since 2009.  

National Dog Population Management Strategy, launched last year, was clubbed with the waste flagship programme to improve the health and welfare of dogs, reduce dog population, and achieve zero human deaths due to rabies by 2030.

It is expected to encourage adoption of stray dogs by using community-based approaches, human behavioural changes and reinforce public education.