We won international awards for dog population management, not once, but twice. Going by the records, we have stabilised dog population through mass sterilisation programmes. This success story, though, doesn’t give us the real picture of the situation. Why would some towns in the country cry for help otherwise?
We have reports of dogs biting horses in Phuentsholing. Rabies and controlling dog population is, of course, different stories altogether. But in the context of the subject, it is all the more important.
In Chamkhar in Bumthang recently, residents complained that rising stray dog population had become a nuisance. In Chumey, stray dogs kill and eat sheep.
We spend millions on injections for dog-bite victims and on dog population control programmes. In the last three years, the government spent close to Nu 3 million on the Anti-Rabies Vaccine (ARV) and Tetanus Diphtheria (TD). According to records with the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, 1,820 people were given ARV and TD in 2013 due to bites and scratches. More than 1,600 people received ARV in 2014 and 2,090 in 2015. What this indicates is that dog population in the country is on the rise.
According to National Dog Survey that was conducted in May 2015, there were 73,124 dogs in the country. Close to 43,000 were estimated to be stray. The survey also found that bite cases were mostly from stray dogs. Until June this year, there were 1,484 dog-bite cases in Thimphu alone, which means at least eight people were bitten by dog every day. Sterilising and vaccinating around 70,000 dogs has cost around Nu 45 million.
Managing dog population has been a challenge. Pounding didn’t work; neither did poisoning and killing. In Chukha last year, about a hundred dogs were tied in sacks and dumped.
A survey shows that 76.3 percent of the dogs were ear notched to avoid repeated catching and vaccination. This means we have achieved the target to make Bhutan rabies free by 2020. But then dog population can grow exponentially. One unsterilised dog have the potential to produce at least six litters.
Sterilisation is the most effective and humane method of controlling dog population. What is important is that our efforts should be sustained. This does not seem to be happening.