There is an accelerated attempt to control the exploding stray dog population. This time, it is through a 10-way strategy to achieve the objectives. The strategies aim at achieving 100 percent sterilisation of free-roaming dogs, register, and vaccinate all pet dogs, and control feral dogs population.
These are, however, not new to the ears. Attempts to control the stray problem, recognised way before some of those involved in the new approach were born, had not worked, for whatever reasons. Even as we discuss the problem, the canine population continues to increase, faster than the measures taken to stop the trend.
If there is one hope in the current attempt, it is the involvement of the de-ssups. One of the strategies is to engage de-suups in carrying out studies, catching, sterilization and vaccination. Judging by the success of projects involving de-suups, there is hope and expectation in finding a solution to the stray problem.
All this while, our discussion on stray dogs has been all bark without good bite. Everybody agrees that it is a problem and that something must be done about it. The discussions continue and so does the problem. Given that we identified the stray dog problem as early as the 1980s, we could surmise that millions of ngultrums were spent chasing dogs. Ministers, secretaries, directors and “Dashos” have come and gone, but not the problem. The dogs, if they could speak, would have a saying – barking humans seldom bite.
The new approach of using technology, like digital identification of “pet stray dogs” and fixing accountability should force people to take accountability and responsibility. The concept of pet dogs in Bhutan is different from other countries. Just giving some leftover food and letting them around one’s house or property doesn’t qualify a stray to be a pet. When a problem occurs, like a dog bite case, nobody takes ownership, forget compensating the victim.
Given the sensitivities of killing animals, we cannot get rid of stray dogs. The best approach is to neuter them so that the population is controlled. Authorities involved in the dog population programme claim that it takes at least five years to see the results of a sterilisation campaign. Seeing that we are still barking up the same tree, either the campaign remains only on paper or the dogs have found a means to cheat science or medicine.
The dog population has to be managed. Stray dogs are terrorising people – from students to officers to senior citizens talking their early morning or late evening walks. Some take the walk with mani beads on one hand and sticks or stones in the other. In rural Bhutan, even on the outskirts of the city, dogs have become a nuisance to crops. A pack of dogs can undo a year’s harvest in just one hour, say farmers.
There is a renewed hope with the latest initiative. It is a gentle approach to the problem. In the past, extreme measures including killing were tried. The best solution is letting those working on it work without fake concerns. If we let the de-suup catch the stray or not hide a stray out of fake compassion, it would be a contribution.
A solution is in the sight, it is time to help ourselves.