Until a year ago, Suraj Maharjan and his family members, all dog lovers, worried for days before festivals like Dashain. Sometimes they even had to cancel their travel plans during festivals and other holidays.
The reason was their dog. In their absence, they had no one in Kathmandu to care for their beloved pet, Pintu, a Golden Retriever.
“We couldn’t leave our dog home alone,” said Maharjan, 27, a restaurant owner in Kirtipur. “The puppy has become an integral part of our family. All the members share a very strong bond with him.
But this year, Maharjan’s family is relieved due to the easy availability of dog hostels in Kathmandu these days. Maharjan says that before he had only heard of hostels for boys and girls. But when he first heard about a dog hostel on social media, it quickly caught his eye. He then inquired about it and visited the inn. After observation, he was convinced of the care and safety of his dog. So he left the animal there before his whole family left the valley for two weeks.
“Two months ago I left my Pintu at the Golden Champaign Kennel, and when I came back I could see some positive changes in him,” Maharjan said, adding that Pintu was aggressive when fed. , a trait the pet had now shed. “He was trained to socialize while at the kennel,” Maharjan said.
Also this Dashain, Maharjan had reserved a place for his dog in a hostel while he and his family members were visiting Pokhara for two weeks.
Although dog hostels or day care centers are common in developed countries, they are a relatively new phenomenon in developing countries. This practice has gradually gained traction in Nepal – although for now their popularity seems to be confined to Kathmandu – much to the relief of busy dog-loving professionals. The importance and relevance of these hostels has increased dramatically with the growing number of nuclear professionals and families in cities.
The Veterinary Association of Nepal noticed dog hostels in Kathmandu around 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The association estimates that there are currently only half a dozen professionally established dog hostels in Kathmandu. According to the association, some people also provide such services as a side business.
“The dog hostels have been very convenient for families and people who cannot carry their dogs with them on their travels,” said Sital Kaji Shrestha, president of the association.
Many dog lovers are happy. But they also question the reliability and quality of the services offered.
“It’s a good thing that there are now several hostel options for dogs, but the question is, are the dogs managing to socialize as they should in these places?” said Shivani Chemjong, Communications and Campaigns Manager at WaterAid Nepal and a self-described “pug mum”.
Chemjong, who owns a pug named “maila,” says those who want to run a dog hostel should employ trained people who know pet psychology.
“I still can’t fully trust these hostels because many of them still restrict dogs to cages,” Chemjong said. “I haven’t left my dog in such places but I might reconsider if I find a trustworthy hostel.”
Chemjong noted that it is common in developed countries to leave dogs in daycare centers during office hours.
“Dog lovers view pets as part of their family and pet care is a matter of serious concern to them,” she added.
Shrestha, president of the association, stressed the need for an effective system to monitor these hostels. The government, however, has no guidelines to manage them, he said.
“Dog hostels operate like hotels for boys and girls. What we need are separate guidelines,” Shrestha said, “ones that would categorically define the criteria for space, food, hygiene and other issues.
In the valley, dog keeping fees at hostels range from Rs800 to Rs1,200 per day. Apart from hostels, some people also provide such services from their homes. Ram Hari Subedi, 50, from Gongabu of Tokha township, is one of them.
“I’m a veterinarian by profession and almost every household in my area has a dog,” Subedi said. “They bring their pets here for treatment and if they leave the valley they prefer to keep their dogs at my house because I know how to take care of them.”
Subedi, however, doesn’t call her home a dog hostel. “I’m just doing this to help people and make some extra money,” he said.
Subedi has five cages at his house and charges up to Rs 1,200 a day, depending on the size, age and breed of a dog to be cared for.
Sangam Lama, one of the owners of the Golden Champaign Kennel in Hattigauda who housed Maharjan’s dog mentioned at the top of the article, said the job was serious business for her.
She said she had two other partners and ran the hostel professionally.
“Although the government hasn’t given us any guidelines, we have our own standards and are very dog friendly, as we are all dog lovers,” said Lama, who has run the hostel for three years. The inn has increased its staff, to half a dozen now, and its clientele has also increased. “Previously, when we started our dog hostel, we got a maximum of 10 dogs—
This Dashain, we received requests to house 30 dogs.
She said the hostel can now accommodate up to 20 dogs and is looking to further increase capacity. The hostel also has a separate team of veterinary experts who examine the dogs’ health, history, age and eating habits before admitting them.
“We only allow dogs into our hostel after getting all the details,” Lama said. “And once we keep the animal here, we give daily updates on the dogs to the owners.”
Shrestha, the association’s president, however, says the hostel’s internal rules are not enough and government-approved guidelines are needed.
The Livestock Services Department should take the lead in this regard, he said.
“Increasing the number of dog hostels will also help reduce the number of strays, as some busy people leave pet dogs on the road because they can’t take care of them all the time,” said said Shrestha. “If they have the option of leaving their pets at a hostel or daycare, they won’t have to give them up.”