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Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director, Mark Jones, has had some correspondence recently with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) regarding the continued use by Balinese authorities of indiscriminate culling (poisoning) of street dogs in Bali, in response to recent cases of rabies in people.
BAWA has asked for our support in keeping the profile of this issue high on the international agenda, while they (and other welfare groups) pressure the authorities to adopt WHO guidelines on controlling rabies.
We have therefore sent a second letter to the Indonesian consul in Hong Kong with copies to the authorities in Jakarta and to the Jakarta post, as a follow up to the previous letters of 4th December.
The Consul General
Indonesian Consulate General
127-128 Leighton Road
7 January 2009
Following my previous letters to Indonesian government officials and the Jakarta Post of 4th December 2008, it is disappointing to hear that the Balinese authorities are continuing with a policy of indiscriminate culling of dogs as their main tactic for the control of rabies (“Elimination, vaccination of stray dogs to proceed”, Jakarta Post, Saturday December 27th 2008). Apparently some 20,000 doses of locally produced rabies vaccines for dogs have been purchased and a further 30,000 ordered, but to date very few doses have been used and no coordinated effort at vaccinating large numbers of dogs has been implemented. Culling methods employed apparently include the baiting of food with strychnine and rat poisons.
The use of indiscriminate dog culling as a method of rabies control has long been discredited. According to the World Health Organisation, “Killing of dogs has not been shown to make any difference in the epidemiology of rabies” (Rabies elimination in South-East Asia, WHO project ICP BCT 001, 2005), and often does not receive the support of the local community, an essential prerequisite for any control policy. Strychnine and rat poisons usually result in an agonising death for those dogs which take the bait. Baited meat is most likely to be taken by dogs which have limited experience on the streets, so pet dogs which may have already been neutered and vaccinated and therefore represent no threat often fall victim. Experienced feral street dogs, which one assumes will form the authorities' main target group, will often have learned to avoid poisoned bait. Such methods also place at risk other wildlife and domestic animals, and there is a risk of children and adults being poisoned through consumption of baited products intended for dogs. Indiscriminate culling results in population disruption, which can increase the likelihood of infected dogs migrating into urban areas and causing problems, animals which would otherwise have been excluded by the existing dog population.
There is evidence that mass culling of dogs within a defined area can result in the explosion in populations of rats and other rodents, and a consequent increased risk of diseases such as leptospirosis (“Weil's disease”), murine typhus (Rickettsia species), and plague (Yersinia pestis).
The Indonesian authorities should urgently consider seeking the advice and technical support of experts on rabies control. The World Health Organisation's South East Asia Regional Office have developed strategies and held workshops on the control of rabies in the region, at which Indonesia has been represented (please refer to “Regional Strategy for Elimination of Rabies” - WHO project ICP OCD 001, 1997, and “Rabies Elimination in South-East Asia” – WHO project ICP BCT 001, 2005, both attached to this letter). Vaccines cost as little as US$1.5-2 per dog, and whilst effective vaccination strategies require resources and commitment, they will reap benefits in the long term.
The Indonesian Authorities should take this opportunity to develop a sustained, well funded rabies control programme under the technical guidance of the WHO, which should include thorough censusing and disease surveillance of dog populations, trap-neuter-release and vaccination schemes for street dogs, the encouragement of responsible dog ownership amongst the general public through information, education, and legislation, and the provision of affordable post exposure prophylaxis for people who have been bitten. Only then will they be doing right by their people, and the animals with which they live.
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