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Exterminating Bali's Dogs Won't Stop Spread of Rabies

Public Hearing on Rabies in Bali Conclude Mass Vaccination as the Only Effective Way to Stop the Spread of Rabies.

(11/30/2009) Bali Post quotes a number of local organizations in Bali complaining that the current program of exterminating stray dogs will prove ineffective in the government's goal to eliminate rabies in Bali before 2012. To date the government has only managed to kill 35,000 dogs each year from a total estimated dog population on the island of 420,000 animals. Current dog extermination programs, as a result, have little hope of eliminating the virus.

This is the view of many of the community-based organizations that attended an open hearing with the Government's Special Committee on the Control of Rabies held on Tuesday, November 24, 2009, in Denpasar. The hearings were chaired by the head of the Special Committee, Putra Astawa.

One participant, Wita of the Bali Rabies Forum, described the provincial law on rabies now being discussed by Bali's House of Representatives as reflecting the extraordinary fear of lawmakers towards the disease. As a result, there is a desire to eliminate all dogs, both the healthy and infected animals, and even those dogs who have now been vaccinated against the disease. Behind this fear, Wita said there is concern that an irresponsible party will release a rabies infected monkey at one of Bali's tourism objects or at the West Bali National Park.

Also concerned and speaking at the meeting was IGP Budiarta, a member of the Special Committee who expressed fears that the disease will soon spread to Bali's cattle stock. Budiarta called for measures to be put in place controlling the commerce of cattle between Java and Bali, condemning the official tendency to only snap into action when an issue is a hot topic in the local press.

Wita reminded the Special Committee that dogs are not the cause of the rabies epidemic, but are victims of the disease. Bali must cure its dog population through mass vaccination programs rather than extermination programs. "We members of community-based organizations are prepared to help the government undertake mass vaccination programs, providing the government provides the needed medicines," Wita said.

Reflecting the fear and ineffectiveness of current measure is a reluctance by the government to declare all of Bali is affected by rabies. Instead, the government issues statements saying only 7 of the island's 9 provinces have cases of rabies. The community-based organizations challenged the government to adopt an island-wide perception of the problem and its solution to permit mass vaccination programs to be undertaken in every regency.

The Special Committee concluded at the meeting that mass vaccination is more effective than current efforts to eliminate dogs. They also said there was no need to close Bali's borders to the importation or export of dogs, but only to ensure that every dog leaving or entering the island has been vaccinated for rabies.