Target Practice

Target Practice

With another human death from rabies in Bali, it is evident that the campaign to wipe out this scourge that has claimed close to 150 lives since it emerged here towards the end of 2008 has some way to go before success can be claimed.

Sanglah Hospital said that a 55-year-old woman from Gianyar died last week and had apparently been bitten by a rabid dog two years ago but never got the vital vaccination afterwards.

The difficulty is that each year the Bali authorities attach a target of eradicating rabies at the end of the year, and at every such instance we have come nowhere close to achieving that goal.

In the meantime, the many hundreds of thousands of dogs on this island, a great number of them feral and dangerous for reasons other than possibly being rabies reservoirs, continue to be targeted for vaccinations over culling. We think this is wrong, and have all along advocated for an ample reduction in the numbers of roaming dogs, because their size is simply too vast for any reasonable hope of stopping the spread of the rabies virus.

No matter how many rabies-eradication targets the authorities set, we will keep missing them. The stray-dog population is so out of control that in order to carry out effective inoculation, there must be a manageable amount of dogs. Otherwise there is the eternal problem of infected feral dogs evading vaccination and, possibly on the run from catchers, transferring the problem elsewhere.

No one wants to see innocent animals slaughtered, but when there are human lives at risk – and there are – it is a necessity. The solution to our rabies crisis therefore lies in culling our massive stray dog population. If in 12 months we are still having this conversation and more people have died because of real inaction, it will be a tragedy.

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