Meat shops will also be relocated as part of the effort to control the dog population besides mass sterilisation
Canines: Thimphu thromde will meet with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to discuss reviewing legislations and guidelines to control dogs and impose fines on dog owners, who do not care for their pets.
“We will approach the relevant agencies and stakeholders and talk with them and review the existing laws and guidelines that do not cover the rising challenges and issues,” Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said.
As per the Livestock Act of Bhutan, pets must be registered, identified, and vaccinated against rabies. However, most pet dogs are found mingling with strays and even attacking people.
An animal, which poses a proven threat to human health, can be destroyed according to the Livestock Act.
If pet dogs are not supervised and put in confined places as required, they fall under the free-roaming category, in which case the relevant agencies have authority to deal with them. However, there have been cases where pet dog owners lodged complaints against livestock officials for sterilising their dogs. Officials sterilised the dogs not knowing that the dogs were pets.
There are also fines and penalties laid out in the guidelines but there are no specific directives as to which agency should take a lead role in imposing them.
Project Coordinator of the National Dog Population and Rabies Control Project, Dr Hiruka Mahat said that for instance, the Livestock Rules and Regulations says that the dog should be compounded by the relevant agency but it does not say which agency. “As a result the rules could not be implemented effectively.”
With no clear directive, the livestock department, thromde and the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) work in parallel. For example, the thromde looks after cattle and dogs in the throm but meat shops are being monitored by BAFRA, which is overlapping.
Relocation of meat shops
To control the dog population in Thimphu, which has around 4,892 stray dogs, Thimphu thromde will standardise and relocate meat shops.
Today, most of the stray dogs are found around meat shops where they feed on unwanted meat, bones and waste, which are widely available from every meat shop in Thimphu.
Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that meat shops on Norzin Lam, Chang Lam and the Hongkong market area will be relocated to the Centenary Farmer’s Market where there will be a standard structure for the meat shop including basic facilities to segregate and control waste.
In absence of such facilities, the waste from meat shops is not controlled and as a result attract stray dogs. “We are already working on it and our plan will soon materialise,” Kinlay Dorjee said.
The thromde is also in the process of identifying locations in Babesa, Olakha, Taba and Motithang to set up standardised meat shops.
The move is expected to create a healthier environment as foul smells emanate from the meat shops and affect those living nearby. There are 49 meat shops in Thimphu and except for one, the rest have people living above them.
None of these shops have specific bins to dump waste or proper drains to remove liquid waste. Most of their wastes are dumped into bins meant for other purposes.
As per laws, wastes generated from meat shops should be properly disposed in a pit and maintained under lock and key. The pit should allow only meat wastes but today except for products that the BAFRA seizes, the rest are dumped in any bin. The seized meat products, which are usually expired items, are disposed off at the Memelakha landfill.
The thrompon said that people living on floors above the meat shops are deprived of fresh and clean air, and their surroundings are filthy and unhygienic.
Sterilisation and Vaccination
Every year, the livestock department carries out mass sterlisation and vaccination of dogs to prevent outbreak of rabies across the country.
The annual mass dog sterlisation and vaccination programme for Thimphu, that started in end of July, has so far sterilised and vaccinated more than 250 dogs against rabies. During the month-long programme all core areas in Thimphu will be covered.
The programme is being conducted in collaboration with the livestock department and Thimphu thromde. Despite, carrying out the programme since 2009 there has been no significant decrease in dog population because the public does not cooperate with the agencies.
In 2009, there were 5,167 stray dogs in the Thimphu. Today the number has deceased only slightly to 4,892.
Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that he has been “begging” for money from agencies to conduct the programme. “Public are least bothered,” he said. “We want public to be more responsive so that there are less dogs, less rabies and less dog related problems in the country.”
For instance, the public feed dogs but do not take the dogs for sterlisation and vaccination, said officials. They also do not help to catch the dogs said officials.
Ten dogcatchers have been deployed at Ramtogtog where the month-long programme will cost the government Nu 700,000. Approximately Nu 650 is spent on every dog for sterilisation and vaccination.
If people assist the relevant agencies, it will not only bring down the dog population but also the costs to the government, said the thrompon.
Every year, close to Nu 7.5 million is spent on the programme. If people help in catching dogs it can save Nu 325 per dog, said officials.
Since 2009, 70,000 dogs have been sterilised and vaccinated at a cost of around Nu 45 million.
“We get complaints on dog bites and attacks but the public including pet dog owners do not cooperate to bring dogs for vaccination and sterilisation,” said the thrompon. “Irresponsible pet dogs owners should be punishable under the law.”
The National Dog Survey conducted in May 2015, recorded 73,124 dogs in the country of which 42,903 were estimated to be strays and 30,221 pets.
Since May 2015, surveys were conducted in each dzongkhag to estimate, via the presence of an ear-notch, the current percentage of dogs sterilised in each dzongkhag. An average of 61.1 percent were sterilised in the urban areas and 45.5 percent in rural areas.
From the estimate of 7,857 and 35,046 roaming dogs in urban and rural areas respectively, 4,358 (55.5 percent) and 9,947 (28.4 percent) are strays. An estimated 30,221 pet dogs means there are 73,124 dogs in the country today.