Earlier this week I attended a panel discussion on dogs at Barnard College and was shocked to learn that 55,000 people die each year of rabies. Ninety-five percent of those deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Because only one to three of those deaths occur in the United States, I didn’t realize rabies fatalities were such a big problem. Developed countries are lucky to have measures in place to control rabies, it’s something we often take for granted.
In Asia and Africa, mass canine killings are common following outbreaks, even though it’s not an effective way to curtail rabies. Fortunately for dogs and humans in Bali, the government approved a new humane rabies control program on Tuesday. The goal is to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the island’s dogs within six months and implement a public education initiative.
Unlike other areas in Asia, rabies is actually a fairly recent problem in Bali. The country was considered rabies free until 2008 when unvaccinated stray dogs caused an outbreak. The rapid spread of disease was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Balinese followed by mass dog killings.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) are now working with the Balinese government to organize vaccination teams, train local authorities, and implement public education initiatives.
This humane approach to controlling rabies is a win-win for both humans and canines. The Balinese will be protected from rabies and an estimated 400,000 dogs will be saved.