In Bali, an opportunity to set an animal welfare example for the whole world

On February 16th, The Jakarta Post published the article “Bali lowers rabies alert level: Good news or bad?”- reporting that following island-wide rabies vaccination efforts, the Bali health agency has lowered the rabies alert level on the island.  Janice Girardi, Founder and Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare-supported Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) reflects on this news with the important reminder that eradicating rabies is a long-term effort that’s about more than just vaccines. - HL

From Janice:

Balinese kindergartners after an animal welfare education session. c. 2012 IFAWWe always knew that in a situation like Bali, three rabies vaccination campaigns island-wide would be necessary.  Even though our first campaign saw an approximate 70% reduction in rabies cases, and the second campaign made further progress, while there is still rabies everyone must remain vigilant and not become complacent. 

If rabies was easy to eradicate then all the Asian nations still struggling with the virus, would have been rabies free by now.  It's not easy but it is possible. With a robust continued vaccination program, immediate ban on culling dogs, strong border controls, licensing on dog breeders and pet markets and continued education programs we can succeed.  The island-wide rabies vaccination campaign led by BAWA, WSPA, and supported by IFAW resulted in the vaccination of almost 300,000 dogs in a one year period. That is commendable. 

Money and incredible effort continues to be poured into the program. But what is tragic is that dogs continue to be culled in a manner which is inhumane, including vaccinated dogs.  The WHO, FAO, WSPA, IFAW and other world rabies scientists have all warned against this. If dogs continue to be killed in Bali it will be impossible to maintain the herd immunity needed to end the epidemic.  It is also a tragic waste of time and money.

Killing dogs in this way also goes against the Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions.  If we want to end rabies, then vaccinate dogs, continue vaccinating new born puppies, educate people about dog behavior and how to avoid dog bites, and stock post- exposure treatment at all major hospitals and clinics.  Animal welfare and responsible pet ownership education should also be added in to school curriculum.

Let's not expect a culture that has previously never had pets or an understanding of dog behavior to be able to be responsible within such a short period of time, but let's all work together towards this goal. Bali should be an example to the world of humane animal treatment and a humane rabies program that is successful.  

Thank you, 

Janice Girardi

The Bali Animal Welfare Association

*This response appeared in the printed March 1st edition of the Jakarta post and can be read here

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