Luck For Strays in Bhutan
In the poor Asian country of Bhutan, comparable to Switzerland in size, there are about 52,000 stray dogs (as of 2015). During the past nine years, about 65 per cent of them have been vaccinated and neutered thanks to a large-scale campaign of the internationally active animal welfare organisation Humane Society International (HSI). But even after this measure, more animals have to be treated so that the population does not unintentionally increase again. With the help of the Welttierschutzgesellschaft, it is possible for the local organisation, the Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA) Bhutan, to continue neutering and caring for the dogs in the capital, to ensure the coordination of the national population control and to raise awareness for the needs of the animals among the potential animal protection activists of tomorrow.
At the transition between Central and South Asia lies the Kingdom of Bhutan, which is only slowly opening up to tourism. With around 750,000 inhabitants, it stretches between China and India along the impressive mountain ranges of the Himalayas. Statistically it is one of the poorest countries in the world. It achieved fame through its happiness index and the so-called gross national happiness, which, according to the King, has taken precedence over economic growth since 1974.
Approximately 17,000 stray dogs live in the country’s capital, Thimpu. In comparison to the rest of the country, the stray density there is the highest by far. Even if a large number of animals have already been reached by the above-mentioned measure of HSI, it is now crucial to maintain the vaccination and neutering rate for a permanently healthy dog population. To ensure this, another 2,000 animals should be neutered and vaccinated within two years with the support of state veterinarians. These animals are, on the one hand, extremely shy and therefore sometimes aggressive animals that require a lot of patience and, on the other hand, pregnant and young animals that require greater care. Due to the poor structural condition of an existing stray animal centre, the latter in particular were largely left out of the neutering campaigns and could continue to reproduce.
In order to prevent the spread of rabies and other diseases transmitted by dogs, the government followed the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1990s and tried to minimise the stray population by targeted killings. The founder of our partner organisation Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA) Bhutan then went on to talk to the mayor of the capital Thimpu and convinced him that neutering and vaccination is a more animal-friendly and effective alternative.
The renovation of this centre will now close this gap entirely. By building additional accommodation facilities, pregnant females can be accommodated until they stop nursing and can then be neutered. They are then released into their original territory after being dewormed and vaccinated. The puppies will find new homes with responsible animal lovers in Bhutan. At the age of three months, they will also be neutered and then vaccinated and dewormed. Additionally, the quarantine accommodations for sick or injured animals needs to be repaired. These are now so run-down that an animal-friendly housing of these animals was no longer possible and work on site was complicated.
Stray dogs that need veterinary help are treated and get the chance to recover. The animals are either picked up from the streets by employees of the RSPCA or they are brought there by animal lovers. As soon as their state of health allows, they are neutered, vaccinated and dewormed and released back in their territory. Particularly serious cases - old, handicapped or sick animals - are rehomed or get a place at the stray animal centre until the end of their lives.
(Thanks to the State veterinary clinics it is possible to ensure that neutering and rabies vaccinations are carried out in other parts of the country as well. As an important partner of the government in matters of animal welfare, the RSPCA is also involved in the coordination of the national population control.)
The animal conservationists of tomorrow
In order to achieve more animal welfare in the future as well, a long-term school program - the so-called Animal Lovers Club - is to reach all children nationwide, the animal conservationists of tomorrow. During their weekly school visits, the children learn to develop an awareness for the needs of pets as well as stray dogs and learn about the importance of neutering. The theoretical knowledge is then deepened in various activities, including an excursion to the stray animal centre. The pupils also have several options for volunteering in the centre. This has been met with great interest in the past: 30 children regularly help with feeding, dog-walking and other little chores already. In order to inform the remaining population about the necessity of rabies vaccinations and neutering, information brochures are handed out additionally over a large area.