Govt. likely to give incentives to catch stray dogs

With lack of community support faced by the livestock department officials to control stray dog population in urban areas, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the challenge could be addressed by giving incentives to catch dogs during an update of flagship programs on Wednesday.

Controlling stray dog population is one of the flagship programs, Lyonchhen said adding that if an individual can catch dogs, he will be rewarded Nu 100 per dog. “There will be other ways to get community support to bring stray dog for sterilization,” he added.

While presenting an update of the programs, an official from the livestock department shared that catching dogs in the thromde areas is difficult for the officials due to lack of community support.

“This has affected the progress of sterilization and vaccination programs so far and it could be one of the issues that the department is not able to achieve our target,” he said, adding that community commitment is necessary to catch dogs.

He added the veterinary clinic is now moved to Hongtsho since community support is higher in the peri-urban and rural areas.

So far this year, 1,363 dogs and 56 cats were sterilized and vaccinated. By the end of this year, the program is expected to sterilize and vaccinate 4,000 stray dogs in the capital.

He also said that darting could be an easy method to catch aggressive dogs in the thromde areas but it is easier said than done.

Under the program, 1,216 dogs and 76 cats were vaccinated against rabies in Phuentsholing and 1,111 dogs were vaccinated in Kanglung and Samkhar gewogs in Trashigang to contain rabies outbreak.

An official from the livestock department shared Haa dzongkhag has 95% success rate due to strong community support. More than 1,000 dogs were neutered and 635 were adopted.

The Ministry of Health’s 2019 Annual Health Bulletin recorded 6,760 dog bite cases in 2018. The year before had recorded 6,416 cases, while 2016 had recorded the most cases: 7,915. In 2015, there had been 7,099 dog bite cases.

In most cases such bites are minor irritants, with rabies almost eliminated in the country, and the last recorded case being in 2016. Nevertheless the dogs themselves are prone to disease. There was a recent outbreak of the viral canine distemper disease in Dagana, and in October 2019, the National Veterinary Hospital reported that it had treated 43 dogs infected by the virus.

An official said with this program their goal is not to achieve zero dog population in the country but to reduce the population to a manageable level and make dogs free of disease,

In 2009, the Department of Livestock, with support from Humane Society International (HSI), initiated measures to control the dog population through a program called, ‘Capture, neuter, vaccinate and release’.

According to HSI, between 60-80% of the dogs in the country have been sterilized and vaccinated. Two different surveys were conducted by HSI and the Department of Livestock to determine this.

As the surveys noted dog ownership in rural areas is almost twice as high as that in urban areas – 40% compared to 21%, so there is always a tendency towards rural to urban migration, mimicking human behavior.

Officials said that about 75% of stray dogs in the capital, Thimphu, have been treated, but when they try to estimate the numbers keeps changing, as new dogs emerge. In a way, without such programs stray dogs from one area become a nuisance in another.

One of the biggest issues is the abandoning of dogs that were previously pets. This is what the PM tried to convey. Although there are laws that state the responsibility of owners, including that of taking care of their health needs such as vaccination, these are largely only on paper. About half of the dogs owned as pets are not confined on premises.

Officials said they are planning to attach microchips to the dogs and encourage household and community adoption. This will also help promote responsible dog ownership. “As part of the community engagement and household adoption initiative, the local leaders in Haa district have set an ambitious target of 50% of households adopting stray dogs,” he said.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu