Stray dogs in Thimphu. (Photo Courtesy: Public Radio International)

6,416 stray dog bites in 2018 and the govt’s plan to tackle it

The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the stray dog population in the country and especially in the capital is not only causing a nuisance to the local people but is also becoming a threat to the tourists visiting the country.

The Annual Health Bulletin 2018 showed that a total of 6,416 cases of dog bite have been reported from across the country. According to the data from the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital, there were more than 1000 dog bite cases reported in the 2018 –an average of 83 cases reported every month.

“The rising stray dog population has been one major complaint that the Tourism Council of Bhutan has been receiving for a very long period of time from the tourists. And if we do not tackle the problem, we might lose interested tourists wishing to visit Bhutan, therefore, controlling stray dog population has a multi-sectoral benefit be it on the economy, social issues, and also in keeping a tap on the diseases,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor.

Mass dog sterilization and vaccination campaign under Thimphu Thromde has already begun which is a joint venture between Thimphu Thromde, Department of Livestock and funding and logistics support from the Royal Society for Protection and Care of Animals.

The agriculture lyonpo said that the sterilization and vaccination programs are periodical initiatives that the department has been carrying out for a very time and will not come under the flagship program to address stray dogs and waste.

“The flagship program to address the stray dog population is still under formulation and the implementation might come into effect only by next year. We need to first develop the program and then it needs to be presented at various level for endorsement. And once the program is endorsed in the cabinet, we have to mobilize resources as both waste management and control of stray dog population is going to come at a hefty cost,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor.

The flagship program will also include the conventional method of mass sterilization and vaccination and will take measures to control the inflow of dog population across the country.

“The strategy will also include responsibility for the fellow citizens to support the program as one reason for the rise in the population of dogs can be attributed to the feeding in the form of illegal dumping of waste foods by the general public, be it hotels or meat shops around.”

The responsibility will also fall on the owners of the dogs to take good care of their pets. “When we call it a flagship program, it should be at the national level and cannot be localized. So, it is going to be one very ambitious program of the government that will be carried throughout the country.”

Inventory on the total number of stray dog population will be carried out and international best practices to control the number of stray dog population will also be carried out to kick start the flagship program.

The registered CSO’s responsible for the care and rescue of the animals face numerous financial challenges to sustain their efforts.

“So it is also for this reason that we have requested the interested organization to officially register with the CSOA as an NGO so that they can officially mobilize their resources and avail government support as a legal entity,” said the minister.

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