As the gate to the 1.28-acres house for the downtrodden open, many come excited, happy, wagging their tails.
Dawa, an old dog walks towards the gate. She has been in the house for about 15 years. Being the eldest, she is respected. She arrived at the shelter a few years since the government adopted culling as a means of controlling the increasing number of stray dogs in the 1990s.
The founder and executive director of Royal Society for Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA), Tashi Payden Tshering, then a fresh graduate, approached Thimphu Thromde and suggested sterilisation and vaccination as an alternative to culling.
Her idea was welcomed by the thromde. RSPCA Bhutan was so established in July 1999 with the approval from Council of Ministers. The society registered with the Civil Society Organisation Authority on January 20, 2014.
Among the other fortunate ones are the light brown Mummy and her son Monkey. They were an inseparable pair about a month ago. Now with the son grown up, Mummy tries to give her motherly love to other puppies.
The short-tailed Enge, and small Annie are the attention seekers of the bunch. Jumping and licking, they ask the visitors to feed them. They are the friendliest of the bunch.
Annie recently found an owner through the society’s foster programme. If people are unable to adopt or sponsor for the animals, the foster programme allows people to adopt an animal while keeping it at the shelter. The society provides monthly updates to the owners.
The society also offers other programmes such as the buddy programme and welcomes volunteer services. The buddy programme is for those between six and 15-years. Every week or month, children can come to the shelter and can feed, play, name, and bathe the dogs. The programme aims to educate, advocate and create awareness that stray dogs can offer the same love and attention.
Tashi Payden Tshering said the programme would not only help educate the children but, also their families. “They can learn how much love the strays have, apart from pedigree.”
The society currently has more than 100 members.
Although many link the society to a place for dogs, it is not so according to Tashi Payden Tshering. “We are there for all the animals, but stray dogs are the most pertinent issue in the country. They are the ones who need our protection.”
Currently, the society houses close to 68 stray dogs, two cows, one bull, and a mule. Most are old, blind, crippled, cancer and short-term patients.
The healthy strays are released back to the same location once they are treated, de-wormed, sterilised and vaccinated against rabies.
The society shares about two acres of the 3.28-acre land with Jangsa Animal Saving Trust for better reach and treatment of the animals.
RSPCA obtained the plot of land from the agriculture and forests ministry on lease in 2002. The society then constructed an animal shelter for the rehabilitation of stray dogs and other animals with funding from Sustainable Development Secretariat. The shelter has since then treated and rehabilitated 7,418 dogs.
In 2008, the society convinced the government to close down all the dog pounds in the country and took care of 895 puppies from the pounds.
Tashi Payden Tshering said the main challenge the society face is the lack of awareness about the society leading to lack of fund. “When there is lack of fund, there are a lot of operational issues such as maintenance of the shelter, feeding and treating the patients, and administrative, running and advocacy costs,” she said.
“If you cannot help, please don’t go out of your way to harm.”
Inculcate a sense of moral responsibility for the proper care and humane treatment of animals through increasing awareness on plight of animals in Bhutan and;
Educate proper animal care by way of demonstration and information dissemination.
Promote Compassion and prevent cruelty to any and all animals in Bhutan
The RSPCA, Bhutan will take any lawful measures it deems necessary in the attainment of the above aim;
To improve the environmental conditions in urban areas in terms of sanitation and to try and curb health hazards
Establish and operate a strong and effective organisation dedicated to providing public service through the delivery of effective relief to animals
Maintain animals’ welfare centre(s), hospital, clinic (s) and other facilities for care, treatment, shelter and disposition of sick and injured animals;
Secure government and public’s support for the Society’s activities
Work tirelessly to reduce the harmful impact of human activities on animals through public education, awareness – raising and campaign, and all that is necessary to promote the general welfare of animals everywhere.