I would like to respond to an article by Arie Rukmantara “Bali lowers rabies alert level: Good news or bad?” posted on The Jakarta Post on Feb. 16.
We always knew that in a situation like Bali, three island-wide rabies vaccination campaigns would be necessary. Our first campaign saw an approximate 70 percent reduction in rabies cases, and the second campaign made further progress. However, while there is still rabies everyone must remain vigilant and as Arie said, not become complacent.
If rabies was easy to eradicate then all the Asian nations still struggling with the virus would be rabies free by now. It’s not easy but it is possible. With a robust continued vaccination program, an immediate ban on culling dogs, strong border controls, licensing of dog breeders and pet markets and continued education programs we can succeed. We vaccinated almost 300,000 dogs in one year. That is commendable.
Everyone continues to pour money and incredible efforts into the program. But what is tragic is that dogs, including vaccinated dogs, continue to be culled in a manner that is inhumane. The WHO, FAO, WSPA, IFAW and other world rabies scientists have all warned against this.
If you continue to kill dogs, 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 newborn puppies, educate people about dog behavior and how to avoid dog bites, and stock post-exposure treatment medicine at all major hospitals and clinics. Animal welfare and responsible pet ownership education must be added to school curriculums.
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.
Bali Animal Welfare Association Denpasar