Bhutan takes dog population management to another level

From a cuddly pet to a menacing stray, dogs have always been a part of Bhutanese life. Today there are more than 72,000 dogs in the country and the number is only increasing. With it, there is an increase in dog bite cases and rabies outbreaks every year. To address this issue, the Livestock Department has come up with a strategy to achieve a hundred per cent sterilization of stray dogs and ensure responsible pet ownership under the Dog Population Control Flagship Programme.

Dog population management has come a long way and failed miserably oftentimes. From shooting and poisoning in the 80s to mass dog vaccination, the strategy has not always been sustainable. However, the Livestock Department under the agriculture and forests ministry is now adopting an Accelerated Dog Population Management & Rabies Control Strategy to address the issue once and for all.

Under this strategy, the department will engage Desuups. They will be deployed to collect pet dog details from every household in the capital by the end of this month. A registration card will be issued to all the owners of pet dogs to ensure responsible ownership.

“Our pet owners are not actually aware of the livestock rules and regulations. We even have animal welfare guidelines that specifically mention pet ownership. If you are a pet owner you should know what you are supposed to do and provide to your pet. One of the rules and regulations is once the pet is registered under your name, you are not supposed to let the dogs roam freely in another area. if your pet bites somebody out of your compound you should take full responsibility,” said  Dr Kinley Dorji, the Specialist Head at the National Veterinary Hospital.

For the programme, vaccination centres will be identified at various zones in Thimphu.

The team will carry out mandatory digital identification of the pet dogs by using microchips from 11 to 16 of October. The microchip, which is a tiny electronic device keeps track of the dog and shows the identification of the dog and its owner.

“Since we have a lot of pet dogs, we need to cover 100% of the pet dog in terms of registration, identification, and even sterilization. But sterilization is not mandatory. But we would like to have mandatory registration and microchipping,” he added.

Similarly, a survey for stray dogs will be conducted in the third week of October to achieve 100 % sterilization. The same programme will be carried out in other districts as well. With a budget of Nu 115 M, the Department plans to achieve this goal by early 2023.

Kelzang Choden 

Edited by Sonam

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