World Rabies Day: Culling is Not the Answer

Instead of vaccinating dogs against rabies, many governments are killing them.At this very moment there are ongoing rabies outbreaks in Bali, Malaysia and many other places throughout Asia and Africa. But instead of vaccinating dogs against this fatal and vicious virus, many governments in these places are killing them.

Rabies is terrifying.

For many of us, the thought of rabies conjures up images from history, or even the movies: the crazed, salivating, rabid dog that had to be shot on sight to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

But in many parts of the world, these images are neither history nor myth – they are a frightening reality.

The very real threat of rabies can make people fear dogs – and can make governments start indiscriminate mass culls.

But the year is 2015, and now there is enough scientific evidence to tell us, and every government in the world, that rabies is best prevented through vaccination, not killing.

In Malaysia, the Chief Minister of the state of Penang claims he’s received scientific advice to kill dogs to prevent the spread of rabies.

Mass killing of dogs is not only sad and cruel, it’s totally unhelpful — killing dogs can actually perpetuate the spread of rabies.

When dogs are vaccinated, they work as a buffer against unvaccinated animals. Indiscriminately killing dogs means killing vaccinated dogs, removing this buffer, and allowing rabies to continue circulating amongst unvaccinated animals.

All of this serves to increase the likelihood of people getting bitten by infected animals.

We are working with other international organizations to pressure these governments to stop killing roaming dogs, and implement large-scale rabies vaccinations.

In Bali we work with our partner, the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), to help communities understand the importance of keeping their dogs safe and healthy with regular rabies vaccination. And in the face of a government bent on killing dogs, we’re seeing how education and vaccination pay off in the long term: the communities where we work are refusing to allow the government to kill their dogs, and, through vaccination, are staying protected against the rabies outbreak.

Despite this small victory, dogs are still being senselessly killed elsewhere in Bali and other places around the world because of fear over rabies.

We recently heard about a Balinese family whose dogs were killed despite their protests that the dogs were healthy and vaccinated. The dogs – a mother dog and her month-old puppies – were even wearing the telltale orange collars showing that they had received a rabies vaccine.

The children of the family were traumatized watching the government team shoot their beloved pets with strychnine poison, but they were able to sneak away with three of the young puppies and keep them in safety until the culling team was gone.

We can see in the girl’s tear-streaked face how senseless and sad this culling is for everyone.


On this World Rabies Day, we need your help to stop culling in Bali. Please take a moment to send a message to the Indonesian authorities that you support rabies vaccination. By combining public outreach and accurate information, we know that rabies can be a disease of the past for all people and dogs, no matter where they are.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
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Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
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Shannon Walajtys
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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