Killing of Bali Street Dogs Is Cruel and Unjust
By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times
UBUD ~ “No, I haven’t heard a thing about rabies in Bali,” wrote a friend in an email on Friday. I had mentioned the fears of those who see this as yet another disaster to beset Bali’s tourism.
Jonas said he was sitting in a room with five other computer techs, a Canadian, a Swede and three Australians, and not one of them had heard this news. The Swede did, however, mention that there was rabies in Europe. No travel warnings there! But no, said Jonas, no letters being written to the editor of The Bali Times by this group.
Not that this makes any difference to the real issue that there have been nine deaths attributed to rabies since November last year in Bali. But what is definitely of importance is the way in which the government is attempting to eradicate rabies, and here is where the connection to tourism lies.
The news of rabies in Bali is now in Australian and other newspapers but you would have to question whether this is due to rabies or the indiscriminate culling of healthy dogs – brutal shooting or appalling poisoning with meatballs laced with strychnine. Apart from this being a most inhumane way of killing these animals, it’s also not very smart.
The unfortunate part of all of this would appear to be the idea that culling is cheaper. It’s certainly not more effective, as proven in the rabies problem in Flores, which reported its first case some 10 years ago and today, due to the culling method, has not eradicated the disease.
So who would you listen to if you wanted the most accurate and effective way of dealing with rabies? The World Health Organisation (WHO), which has all the information needed online and through library and consultation. You could, for instance have a look at this website: www.who.int/rabies/animal/dogs/en/index.html, where it says:
Controlling rabies in dogs: what to do – what to avoid doing?
WHO strategies for dog rabies control and eventual elimination
• organization of sustainable mass dog vaccination campaigns
• dog population management through reduction of strays, control of trade and movement of dogs, reduction of populations through spaying and neutering
• public health education strategies
That’s exactly what the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) has been advocating for many years. The culling of defenseless dogs, who have not nor will they ever contract rabies if a smart vaccination program is put in place immediately, is short-sighted. The government was, in fact, vaccinating but that has stopped in the last few months. Unfortunately, it’s reported that they shut down the vaccinating program completely over the recent holidays and will not allow help to be bought in by international experts who have been effectively dealing with rabies outbreaks throughout the world. All this is recorded in the WHO papers on rabies.
Add to the above facts from WHO the opinion of veterinarian Dr. Soeharsono, former professor at Denpasar Regional Animal Sickness Education Centre. Dr. Soeharsono said in an interview with Australia’s ABC network that “while authorities are doing all they can to contain, vaccinate and control the spread of rabies on Bali, he has problems with the culling of Bali’s stray dog population.”
Dogs in every area of Bali, no matter how far away from any site of rabies infection, are now at risk of being killed. The killing is indiscriminate.
Many people, Balinese and expatriate alike, are losing their dogs that they care for and to which they have strong emotional attachments. Those whose dogs have not been killed are constantly anxious about this all-too-real possibility.
There are also reports of heads of banjars requesting the killing of the dogs in their areas. What could have bought these people to this decision? A decision made in Banjar Permata Anyar, Ubung Kaja, was based on misinformation or information minus all the facts about rabies. Scare tactics will cause people to make decisions that they will live to regret.
Tragically, two dogs killed in this area were dogs that had not only been vaccinated for rabies and sterilized but were owned dogs. The owners were at work and the few people that were left told of their panic as they rounded up their dogs and those of neighbors in an attempt to save them from these horrific killings. They were able to only save eight dogs and one single puppy from the entire village.
The policy of killing dogs to deal with rabies has now bred a fear amongst dog owners. It is also unjust. These people do not deserve to feel this way and there is simply no rational justification for the policy.
The Bali dog is a breed and whilst it has it detractors, there are many in the community who work tirelessly to see these beautiful animals preserved.
With around two million tourists visiting Bali each year, BAWA founder Janice Girardi suggested a tax of US$1 be paid by each person. This would pay for three years of vaccinations of all dogs on the island.
And why? Because they have, at their fingertips, the most positive ways to effectively eradicate rabies from an island such as Bali. The WHO is not comprised of your average TV couch experts, those same people who from the safety of their homes send letters to editors and governments threatening the livelihoods of people by spreading swill that unfortunately some governments cannot decipher from the truth.
The killing of street dogs is not an effective response to rabies. It is certainly less expensive than vaccinating but if you are smart enough to do your maths, you will see easily that this is false economy. If the rabies problem is not eradicated, then the tourist industry will loose out completely, with less and less people wanting to visit. So much for the industry that keeps this island afloat.
The cruelty to the animals themselves is clear to anyone who cares to investigate the method used to kill them – strychnine-laced meat that causes an horrific, painful death.
But the policy of killing street dogs is cruel to Balinese people, too, and it is unjust.
For more on Bali street dogs, visit www.bawabali.com.Filed under: Instinct