Staff from WSPA member society the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) have been vaccinating free roaming dogs in Bali’s Gianyar district to prevent further outbreaks of rabies and show local authorities that culling is not the answer.
An eight month vaccination programme has ensured that 42,500 of Gianyar’s dogs have now been immunised, preventing a cull of 65,000 and protecting 390,000 humans from the disease.
Culling is not the answer
Following an outbreak of rabies on Bali in November 2008, government authorities ordered a cull of all ‘outside’, or free roaming, dogs in a desperate attempt to control the spread of the epidemic. The culling operation led to horrific scenes of cruelty played out across the island, as thousands of dogs were poisoned with massive doses of strychnine, suffering tortuous convulsions and internal bleeding before dying. Despite mounting local opposition as well as international recrimination*, the authorities were unwilling to switch to a mass vaccination program as they were unconvinced it would help them control rabies effectively. Authorities’ concerns ranged from a lack of manpower, limited access to long-acting vaccines and scepticism over being able to vaccinate 70% of their dog population – the amount needed to fully control the spread of rabies.
But culling does not prevent the spread of the virus. In fact, the World Health Organization supports mass dog vaccination as the best public health response to rabies.
Answering the call for help
In December 2009 BAWA began a vaccination campaign, funded by WSPA supporters worldwide, to show that it was both possible and effective to control rabies through vaccination, even in what authorities believed was Bali’s ‘unique circumstances’.
Eight months later, the data – logged meticulously as BAWA sent vaccination teams from village to village – establishes the truth irrefutably: Gianyar is the only regency where dog bites have reduced by as much as 50%. Dog bites in all other regencies have increased.
“Vaccinating over 40,000 roaming dogs was no easy task, but the determination with which BAWA’s highly trained staff have completed it proves, without a doubt, that Bali can indeed protect itself against rabies by taking up a methodical vaccination programme,” said Elly Hiby, campaigner at WSPA International. “There is no dearth of international case studies that prove the success of rabies control through vaccination; our success in Gianyar, within Bali itself, means the government can no longer deny the rationale behind choosing this approach and calling for an immediate end to the cruel culling.”
“The support we’ve received from all the village officials has only reinforced our belief that villagers in Bali really do care for their dogs,” says Janice Girardi, head of BAWA.
* 40,000 WSPA supporters signed a petition to the Governor of Bali asking him to order an end to the cruelty of the culling.