48,000 stray dogs removed since 2017: Will free neutering, laws on pet abandonment be effective solutions?

Dr Sim (right) together with Dr Liew (centre) and Dr Adrian during the question-and-answer session at the 'Dog Bite Kills: Rabies Awareness Public Forum' held at MBKS Auditorium on May 26, 2023.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, May 26: With a total of 48,000 stray dogs removed in Sarawak since the rabies outbreak in 2017, could implementing free neutering programmes and revising legislation concerning animal or pet abandoment serve as effective solutions in the fight against rabies?

Sandy Kang, a dedicated volunteer involved in stray dogs protection, raised that removing or putting stray dogs to sleep is not a viable option for combating rabies.

Instead, she proposed that the Sarawak government consider offering free neutering services to address overpopulation and prevent dogs or cats from producing many unwanted litters.

“Also, there is a need to open up the veterinary clinic in Sekama to facilitate easy access for people to bring their animals for vaccination and neutering because going all the way to DVS office at Semenggoh to get free vaccinations is just too far,” she said during the question-and-answer session at the ‘Dog Bite Kills: Rabies Awareness Public Forum’ organised by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Sarawak Chapter held at Kuching South City Council (MBKS) auditorium today.

Furthermore, Kang stressed that it is timely for the Sarawak government to pass a law on pet abandonment to enable stricter enforcement and penalties to deter and discourage irresponsible individuals from dumping their pets away.

“Six years have passed since the rabies outbreak but I feel that the government is not doing enough and we need to speed up the actions (to tackle rabies while saving lives of both humans and animals),” she added.

Kang raises some issues during the question-and-answer session at the ‘Dog Bite Kills: Rabies Awareness Public Forum’ held at MBKS Auditorium on May 26, 2023.

Regarding the mass neutering programme, Department of Veterinary Service (DVS) Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud explained that a shortage of veterinary professionals poses a challenge as neutering an animal typically requires a considerable amount of time.

As such, he said the limited number of veterinarians in Sarawak hinders the implementation of a large-scale programme.

“I hope Sarawak has more vets. Community involvement and proactive action is crucial. We have private vets providing neutering services but many pet owners are unwilling or unable to bring their pets in for the procedure.

“Mass neutering will require a lot of effort and manpower. We simply do not have enough people,” he said.

Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian added that MBKS mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng is currently working with private veterinarians to carry out not only vaccinations, but also registration and microchipping procedures.

“So we can include the neutering procedure as part of the collaboration initiative,” he said.

Dr Sim, who is Minister for Public Health, Housing and Local Government, also expressed his willingness to look into revising the legislation regarding pet abandonment.

“We welcome all constructive suggestions. We are not blaming anyone but let’s work together and figure out the most effective ways to eliminate rabies in Sarawak once and for all,” he added.

Sarawak Health director Dr Ooi Choo Huck, DVS Sarawak assistant director Dr Nicholas Jenek, MMA Sarawak chairman Dr Liew Shan Fap as well as Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) Infectious Diseases chief Dr Chua Hock Hin and senior consultant paediatrician Dr Ooi Mong How were among those present. — DayakDaily