Bali’s government has signed up to a mass dog vaccination campaign — targeting 400,000 animals — financed by foreign money as part of a new approach to rabies control that also commits the authorities to a “more humane” way of culling stray dogs.
Earlier this month Governor I Made Mangku Pastika announced a 560,000-stray cull as “the only effective solution” to rabies, which broke out in one small and easy-to-isolate area of Bali two years ago and has since killed nearly 100 people, stretched provincial budget in an effort to supply human anti-rabies vaccine and spread to all nine local government areas on the island.
Under pressure from the animal lobby the government has now agreed to abandon mass culls and allow the Bali Animal Welfare Association — BAWA, run from Ubud by American jewellery designer Janice Girardi — and others to manage a dog vaccination campaign. The scheme got under way on Tuesday.
The island-wide programme, funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), is along the lines of others in rabies-afflicted countries overseas.
The Bali government has said its aim is to eradicate rabies on the island by 2012.
The new programme, announced just ahead of World Rabies Day on September 28, is described by the WSPA as “an essential first step” towards this goal.
WSPA chief executive Mike Baker said this week: “By choosing to eradicate rabies through a dedicated vaccination effort, Bali is taking the most effective route to protecting the health of its citizens as well as the thousands of tourists who visit the island every year.
“With this campaign, Bali is set to take centre stage and demonstrate a perfect model for rabies control to other countries where rabies continues to be a challenge.”
A pilot WSPA-BAWA vaccination campaign in Gianyar and Bangli earlier this year protected 65,000 dogs. There have been no human cases of rabies in either regency since the pilot project began there.
The key to the vaccination model as an anti-rabies measure is strict enforcement of local regulations on dogs, including registration of pets and verification of an animal’s continued vaccination validity, close cooperation from communities and local leadership, and ongoing education about the danger of rabies.
Governor Pastika, speaking at the signing ceremony, said: “The Balinese community live in harmony with its animals and did not want to see them killed, but we did not have a choice in our fight against rabies. Thanks to the international community, we now have a humane alternative for protecting our people and our animals.”
WSPA says it designed the vaccination programme in close consultation with the government as the authorities will reclaim responsibility for managing and resourcing the project after the initial programme is finalised.
Australia supported this phase through AusAID, which provided 370,000 free doses of the rabies vaccine to supplement stocks already procured by the Bali government.
WSPA says the government’s resuming ownership for the programme will ensure that the critical immunity threshold — of at least 70 percent of Bali’s dog population being vaccinated — is maintained year on year, until the island can be safely declared rabies free.
Australian and American travel agents have expressed concern that government warnings about the continuing rabies outbreak in Bali will lead to intending holidaymakers cancelling their plans.