400,000 Bali street dogs to be saved in rabies control project

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Denpasar, Bali
Thousands of dogs may be spared death from strychnine poisoning as a revolutionary island-wide rabies vaccination program was given official approval by the Government of Bali today.

“This program will save hundreds of thousands of lives—both dogs and humans,” said Kate Atema, IFAW Director of Companion Animals Programs.

IFAW 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 expertise 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.”

In order to control rabies across the island, the vaccination program must roll out rapidly. The program aims to vaccinate at least 70% of the island’s dogs within six months by simultaneously deploying up to 12 teams of 8 to 10 expert animal handlers, veterinarians and educators.

Bali, which was considered rabies-free until an outbreak of the disease in 2008, has a large unvaccinated roaming dog population which can spread the disease quickly. Humans can contract the disease from a bite by an infected dog, and infection is nearly 100% fatal if not treated immediately. The rapid spread of rabies has caused the death of hundreds of Balinese and led to widespread fear and indiscriminate dog killing.  

“Culling dogs does not eliminate rabies in the long-term,” said Atema. “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.”

The project has been made possible by a generous donation of nearly all the necessary rabies vaccines from AusAid (the Australian Government’s overseas aid program). IFAW has committed a significant financial contribution to this project. WSPA/BAWA and the Balinese government are responsible for the project’s implementation, including organizing and training vaccination teams, training for local authorities, and public education.

Bali has nine regencies: Buleleng, Jembrana, Tabanan, Badung, Bangli, Karangasem, Denpasar, Klungkung and Gianyar.

BAWA has already completed a successful pilot vaccinaton program this year in Gianyar and Bangli. This program aims to reach more than 70 per cent of the dogs in the remaining regencies within 6 months.

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