(Denpasar, Bali, 21 September 2010) - 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.
· Since 2002, IFAW has supported a local team of veterinarians, now locally called Indonesian Animal Welfare (InAW), to operate a mobile sterilization, vaccination and treatment program in several Balinese villages. The team treated nearly 2,000 dogs last year.
· In spite of an internationally proven strategies for rabies elimination through vaccination, culling dogs through poisoning, beating or shooting remains a common response to rabies outbreaks worldwide. This project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of vaccination-only programs in the humane, effective elimination of rabies in developing communities.
· A threat to both human and animal health, rabies is a rapidly progressing, deadly disease. It is almost always spread by an animal bite but can also be spread when a rabid animal’s saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. The primary sources of human infection worldwide are dogs and certain wildlife species.
· Each year throughout the world, rabies kills approximately 50,000 people, mostly children. The risk of rabies from domestic animals is low for people in the United States and other developed countries where comprehensive rabies vaccination programs are in place. (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control)
· Post-exposure vaccines for humans bitten by rabid animals in Bali are expensive and difficult to come by. Post-exposure treatment can cost up to USD $1,000, depending on body weight.. Average per capita income in Bali is USD $2,271 (2008).
· Bali has a population of 350,000. A predominantly Hindu island, it is part of Indonesia, which is otherwise primarily Muslim. A popular tourist destination due to its sparkling beaches, it has been recently made popular through the book/film, “Eat, Pray, Love.”