Yangyel Lhaden

Residents of Genekha, a village in south Thimphu, are still trying to come to grips with the scale of horror that they experienced recently.

On May 6, a pack of free-roaming dogs attacked and killed a seven-year-old girl in the village.

The girl was returning home from school when a pack of dogs, feeding on leftover food in front of her house attacked her.

The dogs mauled her and she succumbed to the injuries and died.

At the time of the incident, Aum Bhotom, 58, was working in her field.  She dropped everything and rushed to the girl’s house. “I am still in shock and cannot believe dogs killed the girl.”

The girl, villagers said, was intelligent and bright. Many fondly recall how the girl used to come to their field and ask if they were tired and if she should ask her mother to help them with refreshments.

Her death angered the villagers.

“Our first reaction was to kill the dogs,” Aum Bhotom said.

After the incident, Genekha villagers look at the man’s best friend with second thoughts. They are now cautious, more than ever.

The villagers have formed groups and take turns to drop children to school and home. At dusk, no children now loiter outside.

Yangka, 48, said that though the pack of dogs was removed from the community, the fear has not left them. “ We used to think children must be playing when they did not reach home on time, but now, we go looking for them and make sure they are home and safe.”

It is no different in Hongtsho, on the other side of Thimphu. Free-roaming dogs have become a menace, and people are living in constant fear of dog attacks.

Sonam Choden, a resident in Hongtsho, said that dogs in groups attacked people.

Recently, a man in her village was bitten by a dog. “ For safety, I carry sticks and stones.  They chew on stones even when they become aggressive,” she said.

Stray dogs loiter between Memelakha and Hongtsho; many scavenge on the waste at the Memelakha landfill. When hungry, they roam around and attack wild and domesticated animals in groups.

Another resident, Kinley Zangmo, said there are many new dogs in the area. She drops off and picks up her children from school. “The dogs attack pet dogs, livestock, and rummage the vegetable fields.”

The fear of stray dogs is worse in the heart of the Thimphu Thromde. Dog bite cases are common.

A dog bite victim, Lhaki, said she was shocked when stray dogs in Changangkha she fed regularly attacked her.

In Olakha, Karma Chhoning Pelmo, an exercise freak, is worried about the dogs every time she readies for her morning walk.  Two aggressive free-roaming dogs near her house, she said, are a nightmare.

Dogs are intelligent. Namgay Lhamo, a de-suup said after the dog control programme that involved de-suups, stray dogs began attacking de-suups. “I got bitten by a dog on my way home.”

Down south, a Babesa resident said that dogs, fed by an organisation in the area, have formed groups and are very aggressive. “They attacked my pet who was badly injured and one of my sisters got bitten,” a resident said.

Others said that hungry dogs are now hunting wild animals such as deer and jungle fowl. “They attack stray cattle that venture in the forest above Project Dantak camp.”

In Taba, Dechen drives to her cousin’s place, not far away. It is the stray dogs that force her to drive for half a kilometre.

It is not only free-roaming dogs but the so-called pet dogs that are left free to roam that are tormenting the capital’s residents.

On her way to town, Mamta was attacked by two pet dogs along Kelki High School road. The owner of the dogs was nearby but was least bothered to help her. Fortunately, she could shoo the dogs away.

The breed of dogs that people rear today is another problem.

Jigme, a resident in Changjiji said that since there is no streetlight where he lives, it is scary to walk at night. “ There are dogs that are very aggressive and are left free. It’s scary when huge dogs bark and come running.”

A resident in Changangkha said that in the Changangkha and Motithang area, the issue was more with private dog owners letting their dogs wander freely. “ It is dangerous to walk around when dogs are let loose because they are very aggressive.”