Kathmandu Metropolitan’s canine conundrum

For the last two years, Kathmandu Metropolitan has been running a shelter to house stray and wounded dogs—a good start but not nigh enough.

Anushka Nepal

  • Read Time 6 min.

Kathmandu: Kathmandu’s streets are replete with abandoned and stray dogs, many of them wounded and aggressive. This has posed a biting problem for the city, with the canines often attacking pedestrians and littering the streets.

Kathmandu Metropolitan has taken a step towards treating and providing a home to these abandoned dogs at its shelter located inside the Environment Management Department in Teku. On first look, the area where the dogs have been held is not promising. For one, it is very near to the dumping site which is not quite an ideal place to have dogs with health issues get sheltered. Then the shelter is damp and lacks proper sunlight and warmth. 

It has various issues in terms of cleanliness and components of nature. The dogs there are deprived of a proper natural environment. Besides the dogs that are being sheltered, there are many other strays coming around nearby in search of food among the garbage. That shows the unhealthy environment that pervades the shelter. 

Inside the shelter, the dampness and lack of proper drainage for the animal feces seems to be one of the major problems. There are some dogs that are very aggressive to be left outside where they can roam around and find a better place for secretion. In that case, they do their business inside the shelter that raises a major question of cleanliness. 

The shelter, however, is temporary. Dr. Awadesh Jha, a senior veterinary officer at the division of veterinary health, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said that the government is in the process of getting the area of 1.2 acres (10 Ropani) open field near Dakshinkali, which was a former shelter for abandoned cows, to give shelter to the growing number of abandoned animals.

Jha himself acknowledges the fact and agrees that the place is definitely not ideal to shelter these dogs. “Unfortunately, until we get the open field near Dakshinkali, this is the only option for now,” he said. 

How the shelter is doing so far

The shelter itself isn’t completely hopeless. The dogs that were brought in have gotten proper treatment for their injuries and are now in the process of healing. 

The incoming dogs are first kept in isolation and are treated in a separate facility away from the dumping site. The facility consists of refrigerators to store their meal, a separate operating room for the wounded and has some isolation chambers to keep the wounded animals before and after the treatment. 

Once the dog heals and is healthy enough to move around, it is taken back to the community from where it was brought in the first place.

The facility also has a separate storage unit that stores all the required medication for the treatment of these wounded animals. 

Jha said that questions have arisen in the past about them not having any supply of euthanasia in the facility. “We don’t follow the concept of putting the dog down, that is the only reason why we don’t have any supply of euthanasia,” he said. 

But the major problem right now in terms of medicine is the shortage of local anesthesia. Because of this shortage, the operation conducted for family planning among street dogs has been stopped. This increases the risk of growth in the population of dogs in the street. 

“It is difficult to purchase this particular anesthesia since it has not been registered in Nepal yet,” said Jha. 

We don’t follow the concept of putting the dog down, that is the only reason why we don’t have any supply of euthanasia.’

But other medication for treatments are available within the facilities. There are two doctors who are responsible for operating on the dogs that are brought to the shelter. They are hired in contract with The Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, a non profit organization that works to protect endangered species, ecosystems and communities in Nepal. 

Besides that, the sheltered dogs receive their meal twice a day, which includes meat and rice, according to one of the caretakers who is in charge of feeding them. 

Problems with the dogs on the street

Beyond the shelter, there are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed. Although there are many organizations and shelter homes, the number of abandoned and sick dogs is high. 

In many instances, some dogs appear to be quite aggressive and dangerous in certain areas, in which case the government is compelled to take actions. “We get calls from many places claiming the dog is dangerous, in that case we bring the dog and keep it under observation. If the dog seems to be well behaved, we take it back to its own community,” said Jha. 

But not all the dogs get to go back. There is a dog currently present in the shelter that is very aggressive, making it impossible to let it loose. In that case, the dog remains in the shelter. 

Jha said that there are various problems that arise even in this situation. Many people in the community disagree that the dog is aggressive and are reluctant towards letting it go. “But we have no choice but to address the complaint and take the dog in for an observation for a few days,” he said. 

Jha said that the dog might not show any form of aggression towards some people, but there are many triggering factors that will set the dogs off, if they have had a traumatic past. “If any person or thing reminds them of its traumatic past, the dog will become aggressive,” he said. “Both parties will have valid concerns but we have to address the complaint.”

Besides this, there are many street accidents that cause animals to be severely injured or even get killed. In the case of injury, the dog is taken care of at the shelter. In case the animal dies on the spot, the responsibility to handle the situation falls upon Cleanup Nepal, an organization working towards making the environment cleaner and healthier.

The animal will be taken away from the site for its proper burial within an hour. 

What can be done?

First of all, it is important to acquire the field in Dakshinkali Municipality, so that the shelter can be much cleaner and healthier for all the abandoned animals in the area. Jha suggested that it is also very crucial for other municipalities to work on facilitating these shelters in their areas, so that the abandoned animals can be taken good care of in every municipality.

Since the number of abandoned animals is very high in many areas, coordination with NGOs and INGOs will be very helpful for the time being. If every governmental and non-governmental organization that works for the betterment of animals come together and work cordially, this problem can be solved much faster than with only one party involved.

But more than this, it is very essential to have better coordination with the animal clinics and hospitals in every area, Jha said. There are many scenarios where the public is unable to get a proper or immediate response when they report an accident where an animal is harmed, or simply call for help. There is no nearby facility where a person can take the wounded animal, and in such cases the animal dies on the spot. This factor demotivates people from helping the animal and they tend to look the other way.

‘It is a coordinated effort that is necessary to make our areas an animal-friendly zone.’

Jha said this situation can be much better if the clinics nearby are in coordination with the government. This will require them to treat the animals that are brought in, and the necessary bills will be paid by the government.

It is also necessary to increase the number of ambulances within the government facility so that no calls from the public will go disregarded. For the alternative, he said that if it is made a compulsion for the taxi cabs to help the person who found the animal to take it to the nearby clinic, this problem of transportation could be solved for the time being. The taxi fare would also be covered by the government. 

For this to happen, even the public should be willing to help the animal and assist from their side. “It is a coordinated effort that is necessary to make our areas an animal-friendly zone,” Jha said.

Budget allocation 

More than Rs 100 million budget has been allocated for the welfare of animals in the area. Below is the division of this budget in various sectors. 

Division Budget allocated 
Dead Animal Management and Monitoring ProgramRs 3,000,000
Stray and pet animal’s treatment and management programRs 3.000,000
Public awareness on zoonotic diseases and animal diseasesRs 1,000,000
Quality testing and monitoring of livestock and animal productsRs 2,000,000
Archiving of information on animal husbandry Rs 1,000,000
Pet shop improvement and slaughterhouse management programRs 5,000,000
Pet documentation, microchipping and taggingRs 5,000,000
Vaccination and community medicine distribution program for community and domestic animalsRs 2,000,000
Establishment and operation of pet treatment center Rs 2,000,000
Manumitra’ Program Management (including collaboration with The Jane Goodall Institute, Nepal)Rs 10,000,000
Purchase, lease or rent land for the construction of kanji houseRs 50,000,000
Testing of various animal diseases and product qualityRs 2,000,000
Modern Slaughterhouse developmentRs 5,000,000
Cooperation, interactions and seminars on animal diseases with the local level and neighboring municipalitiesRs 700,000
Dog sterilization and rabies control program in collaboration with local governmentRs 1,500,000
Organization of programs on significant days for animals like World Rabies Day, etc.Rs 300,000
Training on quality control methods and sampling techniques for livestock and agricultural products, foodstuffs, medicines for animals and humans, etc.Rs 1,000,000
Source: Kathmandu Metropolitan, Division of Veterinary Health