KUCHING, April 18: All strays or free-roaming dogs sighted will be targetted for removal during the Kuching District anti-rabies operation from April 22 to May 3.
State Natural Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said no area would be granted exemption as such a move would backfire in the fight to eradicate the deadly disease.
Speaking after chairing a meeting on a rabies outbreak management programme here today, he explained that once an exemption was granted, an endless stream of requests for exemption would follow suit in future operations, and this could render the operation futile.
The meeting today was attended by Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury-Wee and Save Our Strays (SOS) Kuching group president Kitty Chin. Also present were Tabuan Tranquility Neighbourhood Committee vice-chairman Dean Kuan and Green Heights and Borneo Garden Neighbourhood Committee secretary Andrew Tsen.
Uggah, in replying to a request from Tsen to exempt the so-called community dogs, where most of them have been neutered and vaccinated but ownerless, pointed out that the government had a crucial responsibility to carry out.
“The fight is against rabies. It is not against pet dogs. We have to remove the strays. We have to get more pets vaccinated.
“During the coming operation, those dogs that are kept within private compounds will not be affected,” he assured. Uggah hoped those dog owners who had yet to vaccinate their dogs would do so.
“Since the outbreak, we have lost 16 lives, and we do not want to lose anymore,” he stressed.
He added that Kuching District would be divided into eight zones during the operation.
To encourage owners to get their dogs vaccinated, a static vaccination centre would be set up in each of the zones. Details of the centres would be made known soon.
On allegations that some teams had entered houses to tranquilise dogs, Uggah said investigations showed that the dogs were actually tranquilised by the roadsides.
“They escaped into people’s homes. Members of the team then entered to retrieve the carcasses,” he explained.
“An SOP (standard operation procedure) is in place on how the operation should be strictly done.”
In the Kuching operations, Uggah said that team members would have to get signed permission from homeowners to retrieve any targetted dogs that had escaped into any house compound.
“The teams will be given the forms for this to bring around,” he said.
Uggah also hit out at certain politicians, who had criticised past operations, for their ignorance of the way the operations had been or would be conducted.
“They just wanted to exploit the situation for personal political mileage. They did not even know that the federal government is collaborating with the state in the fight,” he said.
After the outbreak was declared a Level Two Disaster, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) had been involved with the police as the lead agency on the ground.
“Kuala Lumpur has given us RM8.9 million to add to the over RM22 million from the state. The federal Veterinary Department is helping us with 56 veterinary personnel besides providing dog vaccines and other equipment,” he added.
On fears expressed by members of the public over the presence of soldiers armed with M16 assault rifles, he said they were there to provide security, which was part of the SOP for the operation.
“They are there not to shoot the dogs with their M16. So far, not a single bullet has been fired,” he added.
Uggah expressed delight that various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) understood the government’s stance and were cooperating.
“They have given us feedback and suggestions. They understand our SOP better now. I appreciate, too, the initiatives taken by the two neighbourhood committees in working out their own programmes to complement our efforts,” he commented.
Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who was also present, said the fight against rabies was too big for any individual group to handle.
“It is a very big issue. There are some recalcitrant people out there who do not care for the law or the welfare of others,” he lamented.
He shared that he had seen young children being horrifically bitten on the face and required plastic surgery.
People, he reminded, should be very responsible on their part.
Meanwhile the Police Community Crime Prevention and Safety Department chief Supt Ang Seow Aun warned that stern action would be taken against those making wild allegations in the social media or spreading false news.
“We will act against those obstructing the operation team from carrying out their responsibilities. We are very serious about all these,” he warned. — DayakDaily