Bhutan’s second dog population survey shows canine management program’s remarkable progress

Humane Society International

THIMPHU—Humane Society International—in a joint project with the Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, Royal Government of Bhutan—has conducted its second dog population survey in Bhutan since 2009, when the country’s National Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Project was launched. Approximately 85,000 dogs in Bhutan have undergone sterilization and anti-rabies vaccination since that time.

After researchers analyse the results, they will be able to determine the pet population per 100 humans. The findings will be crucial to designing responsible pet ownership and community engagement programs.

Two surveys were conducted from June 24 to July 10: a street dog population count and a Knowledge Attitude Practice survey. The surveys counted the street dog and household pet dog population, and documented attitudes and practices of humans towards their dogs. HSI and the Department of Livestock staff conducted the street dog population survey in the eight districts of Thimphu, Paro, Samtse, Chhukha, Bhumthang, Trashignag, Sarpang, and Samdrupjongkhar.

Key categories of data collected were: total number of street dogs, number of sterilized dogs, number of unsterilized dogs, number of lactating females, number of pups, body condition and skin condition. These details were recorded via an Open Street Map tracker application designed for accurate GPS tagging of the dogs’ exact locations.

The household pet dog survey was conducted in Thimphu and Paro Valley to document pet information, history of dog bites and general attitudes related to street dogs. The responsibility and commitment level of the owners, whether the dog is allowed to roam freely or not, and the health and well-being of the dog were also assessed.

Key survey insights:

  • 21 percent of urban households in Thimphu and Paro city own pet dogs.
  • 40 percent of rural households own a pet dog.
  • 60-80 percent of dogs in Bhutan are sterilised and vaccinated.
  • Canine transmissible venereal tumors were common among street dogs before the project started in 2009. In the 2018 survey, no dogs were found with CTVT in Thimphu city. The HSI team suggests this to be the direct consequence of the NDPM program.

Dr. Hiruka Mahat, deputy chief veterinary officer with Bhutan’s National Centre for Animal Health, stated, “The Monitoring Evaluation Impact Assessment, which includes the KAP survey and street dog count, are vital tools to gauge the impact the National Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Project had on having a sustainable dog population in the country since its inception in 2009. The KAP survey has helped us determine any improvement in community knowledge and perceptions towards free-roaming dogs and its control programme and how the public perception has changed over time. This would enable us to have appropriate strategies in place that would go a long way in achieving the project goals.”

Dr. Amit Chaudhari, senior program manager, monitoring and evaluation, HSI/India, said, “It is important to understand the impact of dog sterilization intervention in Bhutan. After almost 10 years of the sterilization project, we can see what trends are developing. We conducted the first survey for Bhutan in 2015, in which we found higher sterilization rates in urban areas (67 % sterilized street dogs in Thimphu city and 73.8 % in Paro) than in rural areas (45.5 % sterilized street dogs in Thimphu rural areas and 57.6 % in Paro rural areas). Now, three years later, we can compare both situations and learn more about complex dog dynamics.”

Media Contact: Simran Dhaliwal, 8980266688,

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