Thousands of dogs may be spared being killed by strychnine poisoning, as the Government of Bali approved a revolutionary island-wide rabies vaccination program. Bali, which was thought to be rabies-free until a outbreak in 2008, has a large unvaccinated stray dog problem, which can spread the disease quickly.
Humans can contract rabies from a bite by an infected dog, and infection is almost 100% fatal unless treated promptly. The rapid spread of rabies has so far claimed the lives of hundreds of Balinese people, and led to fear and indiscriminate killing of the dogs.
"This program will saves hundreds of thousands of lives - both dogs and humans," said Kate Atema, IFAW Director of Companion Animal Programs. IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) is supporting the initiative which is being led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), working with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) and also using the know-how of IFAW's Bali based team, Indonesian Animal Welfare (InAW).
"No longer will dogs be randomly killed following an outbreak of rabies," said Atema. "This is a vital first step towards eliminating the disease from Bali by 2012. The government should be commended for embracing vaccination as a more effective and humane approach to controlling rabies."
To control rabies across the island, the vaccination must be carried out quickly. The program aims to vaccinate 70% of the island's dogs within six months by using 12 teams of 8 - 10 expert animal handlers, veterinarians and educators.
The project has been made possible by a generous donation of almost all the vaccinations by AusAid (the Australian Government's overseas aid program). IFAW has also committed a significant financial contribution to this project. WSPA/BAWA and the Balinese government are responsible for the implementation of the project, including organizing and training vaccination teams, local authority training, and public education.
"The only recognized strategy for the elimination of rabies, according to the WHO (World Health Organization) is a comprehensive vaccination program coupled with public education," continued Atema.
Bali has nine regencies, and a successful pilot vaccination program has taken place in two of them earlier this year. The project aims to reach more than 70% of the dogs in the remaining regencies in the next six months.
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Photo credit: IFAW / Luc Remond