Rabies outbreak now a ‘great concern’, public urged to extend their cooperation

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KUCHING, Sept 5: The state government has appealed to dog lovers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for their understanding concerning the ongoing operation to round up dogs as the rabies outbreak has reached a level of “great concern”.

State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said sample after sample taken from animals, especially dogs (strays and pets), kept coming in and getting tested positive for the virus.

The state government is currently conducting a month-long operation through vaccination, catching and eliminating stray dogs to control the spread of the deadly disease.

On Sept 1, Kuching South City Council and the state Veterinary Services Department started removing dogs roaming freely around rabies-affected areas, including pet dogs.

“NGO, the dog lover community or individuals cannot stop us from the ongoing operation to control the spread of rabies. They need to understand the fact that the spread of this disease in the state has reach a level of great concern, especially in terms of positive samples in gray and black areas,” Uggah said after the opening of the 20th World Congress of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants (CICIAMS).

Under Section 37(2) and (3) of the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999, it is an offence to allow dogs to stray or to take dogs out of rabies-outbreak areas without the written permission of the state veterinary authority.

Offenders can be fined up to RM5,000 or sentenced to a maximum of three months jail, or both.

The outbreak, which started in July last year from a village in Serian, have claimed 12 lives, including children. The outbreak then widen to another 35 areas in various parts of the state.

“The operation will provide more effective control of the movement of stray dogs in declared rabies outbreak areas. Most of the samples were taken from certain parts of Kuching, which we have declared as black areas. There are also other gray areas,” said Uggah, who is also deputy chief minister.

The state also aims to be a rabies-free state within three years.

“That is our target, and to achieve this, we have a lot of things that need to be carried out. We have to make sure that rabies can be contained. We need full collaboration and corporation from all, especially on the removal of dogs,” he said.

Uggah also said the Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and Save Our Strays (SOS) had been collaborating and cooperating with the state government in the fight to contain the spread of the outbreak.

“Initially there were lots of resistance from SSPCA and SOS on this issue, but now they are working very hard with us to control rabies. Please help us and help Sarawak on this,” he added. — DayakDaily