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Will the bark lead to bite?

There is a new idea to solve the ever-increasing stray dog problem. It will be addressed with waste management.

From the everyday scene of stray dogs scavenging on waste, it makes perfect sense that stray and waste correlates. Without waste, there will be no stray dogs.

How and when the government will carry out the flagship programme to address waste and the stray problem is much awaited. What we cannot wait for is a solution to the stray problem.

The stray problem is not the current government’s making even if the problem is as old as some of its cabinet ministers. The problem had been there, what had gone missing is an idea.

Notwithstanding the growing concern, no government in the past had pledged to address the stray problem. Containing stray dogs will not win votes. But when stray becomes a menace both to the urban and rural populace, it is an issue, more important than free Wi-Fi.

In urban areas, free-flowing waste is letting the stray population thrive. As territorial animals, dogs attack people when encroached or hungry. Packs of dogs chase children, joggers, cyclists, campaigners and the weak. One time last year, the national referral hospital recorded 1,484 dog bite cases including from pets. Thimphu Thromde estimated 4,800 free-roaming dogs in 2016. Livestock official estimates the number to be around 5,000. Dogs breed twice a year.

In rural areas, hungry dogs attack livestock, hunt wildlife besides being a menace to crops. Dogs are feeding on dogs. The government had pledged to begin projects to address the stray problem. The political will should be welcomed.

There is a project proposal to address the stray issue. It is not known what is proposed. What we know is we had several proposals in the past that failed. Hopefully, we will see a proposal that will outdo the canine population. In the past, the canine population around the country increased faster than the measures taken to stop the trend.

There are experts in the government or in the civil service. There should be a good solution.

If there is one decision that need not warrant public consultation, it is on the stray problem. We have, in the past, called for more extreme measures to reduce the dog population, but was short charged on religious grounds.

It is now high time for us to stop using Buddhism as the reason for an uncontrolled dog population. There is a general agreement that killing ferocious or sick strays is the only way to control a further explosion of the stray dog population. This view is sensitive- to the extent that those proposing it are judged as “un-Buddhist”.

If the suffering that dogs cause to others continues and dogs are living a hellish life – without food and care and resorting to cannibalism- our spirituality is indeed misplaced compassion.

It is not good for the country’s image, nor is it an accurate or desirable portrayal of Buddhism.

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