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Animals Asia recently sent the attached letter to the Consul General of Indonesia in Hong Kong, expressing our concern regarding the calls from certain Indonesian government officials for mass culling of dogs in response to the recent rabies cases in Bali. Animals Asia Foundation urges Indonesian officials to consider their response to this crisis in the light of the information that is available from international organisations including WHO. Mass culling of dogs is an ineffective method of trying to control rabies, and can be extremely counterproductive in terms of human rabies incidence, as well as being inhumane. Previous experience in Flores, Indonesia, highlights the ineffectiveness of dog culling.
In order to provide an effective long term solution to the problem of rabies for their citizens, the government of Indonesia needs to consider implementing coordinated trap-neuter-release and vaccination schemes for street dogs and domestic pets. Healthy, vaccinated dog populations help to protect people from rabies by keeping sick dogs away.
The Consul General
Indonesian Consulate General
127-128 Leighton Road
4 December 2008
My name is Mark Jones, I am a veterinarian from the UK, and Animal Welfare Director for Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong based non-government organisation working to improve the welfare and lives of all animals across Asia.
We were very disturbed to hear about the recent rabies cases in Uluwatu, Bali, and the response of Bali governer Made Mangu Pastika reported in the Jakarta Post calling fror the culling of street dogs.
Mass killing of street dogs is a knee-jerk reaction to rabies outbreaks, that has long been discredited as a method of rabies control by international organisations including the World Health Organisation. Attempts to control the 1997 outbreak of rabies on the Indonesian island of Flores by culling resulted in the destruction of around 70% of the islands dogs, yet rabies was still present by 2004.
The only effective way of controlling rabies is through carefully planned trap-neuter-release schemes combined with rabies vaccination. Trap-neuter-release schemes, if properly conducted, stabilise dog populations and stop the spread of rabies through those populations, and healthy vaccinated dog populations keep sick or rabid dogs away from their areas. Such programmes have been instrumental in eliminating rabies from many parts of the world, and have effectively reduced rabies in various Indian cities including Chennai and Jaipur.
Rabid dogs are most likely to bite and infect people when they are disturbed or threatened. Attempts to trap and cull stray dogs puts people at great risk, resulting in increases in the numbers of cases.
Bali hosted the Asia for Animals conference earlier this year, which was attended by many of the leading organisations and people in this field, and at which workshops were held on how to conduct effective trap-neuter-release and vaccination programmes for street dogs. Sadly, such schemes are usually adopted at a very local level by small non-profit organisations that struggle to resource such programmes effectively on a large scale. Local and national governments choose to ignore these issues until a problem occurs, when a “knee-jerk” reaction such as Governer Pastkia's is all that is offered, a reaction which will be ineffective, result in the needless and doubtless inhumane slaughter of large numbers of dogs, and will do nothing to protect Bali's citizens. Such a reaction does the Indonesian authorities no credit.
We urge you to reconsider adopting any dog culling policy in the light of the overwhelming evidence against it's effectiveness, and to do the right thing by your citizens by instigating carefully planned and humanely operated trap-neuter-release and vaccination programmes for your dog populations.
I refer you to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Report Series 931 (2004) “WHO Expert Consultation on Rabies”, which is available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/; and to the experiences of the Blue Cross in India which are summarised at http://www.bluecross.org.in/abc.html I also refer you to the “Humane Dog Population Management Guidance”, published by the International Companion Animal Management Coalition and available at http://www.icam-coalition.org/, which summarises the failure of the mass culling programme on Flores, and offers a comprehensive explanation of the operation of trap-neuter-release programmes.
Mark Jones BVSc MSc(Stir) MSc(London) MRCVS, Veterinarian Animal Welfare Director
Animals Asia Foundation
Tel: (852) 2791 2225
Fax: (852) 6449 0179
Email: [email protected] Web: www.animalsasia.org