Dealing with rabies

Editorial in DAWN:

There are various animal birth control programmes that have been successfully tried in many countries which are humane and cost-effective. Animal rights groups in Karachi argue that instead of brutally killing stray dogs, clinic birth control procedures can be used on the animal which can prevent the spread of rabies. If veterinarians are willing to offer their services in this regard, pilule as the animal rights group claim, capsule the city administration should move forward with this programme, especially since it had little success with other methods.

The editorial in its entirety:

KARACHI, Sept 28: The city government kills 72,000 to 75,000 stray dogs a year but does not invest in promoting or facilitating methods to neuter animals, which is a sustainable and humane method of controlling the stray dog population and reducing the threat of rabies. Of the 16 government-run veterinary centres in the city, none currently offer services for the sterilisation of dogs.

However, medical experts are of the view that the only effective long-term method of reducing the potentially fatal disease of rabies lies in controlling the dog population through vaccination and sterilisation. Every year, an estimated 50,000 people are bitten by stray dogs and rabies claims between 2,000 and 5,000 lives annually in Pakistan. An overwhelming number of cases – 96 per cent – involve a rabid dog.

“The mass killing of stray dogs is not the solution,” says Dr Naseem Salahuddin, head of the Infectious Diseases Department at the Liaquat National Hospital and a member of the World Health Organisation programme on rabies. “The solution lies in neutering dogs. This method has been successfully implemented in a number of Asian countries, including Thailand and India,” she tells Dawn. She believes that in terms of Pakistan, the hurdles lie in logistics rather than the cost of surgeries. “A programme to capture and neuter animals can be achieved through a public-private partnership, training technicians and establishing a proper setup,” she points out. “Since rabies is a zoonotic disease, close coordination between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and animal husbandry would be required.” There are five government veterinary hospitals and 11 government veterinary dispensaries/centres in Karachi. None of them provide dog sterilisation services. In fact, with the exception of the Richmond Crawford Veterinary (RCV) Hospital on M.A. Jinnah Road, all the centres cater solely to livestock. Meanwhile, private vets demand high fees – Rs2,000 to Rs5,000 – to carry out the neutering procedure on male and female dogs.

The RCV Hospital, which is the city’s oldest veterinary hospital, is in the process of up-grading its facilities with the support of a US-based vet, Dr I. H. Kathio, who donated expensive necessities such as surgical lights and equipment, an anaesthesia machine, an electronic monitor, operating tables for different animals and set up an animal shelter on the premises. Nevertheless, the hospital does not carry out the neutering procedure. According to RCV Hospital in-charge Dr Qamaruddin Mangrio, this is because the veterinary centre lacks the required medicines.

Though a dog population control programme appears costly on the face of it, medical experts say that it will prove cost-effective in the long run. A reduction in the rabies’ virus reservoir would lead to a drop in the demand for expensive post-rabies-exposure treatment and would eventually see a decrease in rabies-related human fatalities.

The government is wasting resources on an ineffective and obsolete rabies vaccine (known as the sheep brain vaccine since it uses extracts from this organ) that is still being produced at the National Institute of Health — although it stated in 2005 that the production would be ended. A far better option is to invest in training manpower to carry out neutering procedures on stray dogs.

The original editorial is here.

5 thoughts on “Dealing with rabies

  1. I also read about the campaign on these brutal killings of stray dogs. This is something insane and inhumane. It is a pure act of illiteracy which shows what we are today: people with a narrow vision and understanding who do not know the significance of the significant. Animals are creations of GOD and they should be treated with utmost respect. Even a simple kill should be the last option left. I just do not understand this one thing as to why the former city nazim, naimatullah khan, dismissed the remarkable WHO remcommended long term strategy of catch, nueter, vaccinate, and release in combating rabies which is far more effective (i say that because it is a strategy by the World Health Organisation) and not insane or ignorant like the brutal killing one. Which one of the four plain words was not understood? Or did the city goverment did not have enought money to buy vans or pay dog cathers? I think dog catchers arent very highly paid are they? Maybe the civil authorities need to inform us any dramatic upgrades in earnings of dog catchers that recently took place. Or maybe i think the former city nazim did not realize the insanity, the sin, and the crime associated with these brutal killings.
    All that is needed is the right intention and an immediate implementation of that intention. It is only a matter of time. Pakistan Animal Welfare Society is a voice for these animals and with there call to the city goverment, it can change. With the new city nazim, i hope he has a solid concern for this matter.

  2. Asad,

    I think the city administration does not have or does not employ any “Dog Catchers” mainly because either they feel that simply poisoning / killing stray dogs is a much better answer to the stray dog problem or becuase they simply do not feel this is a problem worth addressing.

    I think the city government needs to be lobbied to let them know that the “catch, vaccinate, neuter and release” strategy is THE answer to the local stray dog problem. Not only could this lead to a rabies-free stray dog population, but would also result in a significant decrease in their numbers.

    If an organization such as PAWS would volunteer to do this task for them at cost, I feel enough support from within the organization’s growing member-base would be available to make this programme a success.

  3. In Countries where Rabies is present, stray dog population has to be controlled. We cannot risk dogs running loose in packs in our cities. We need more dog homes and rescue center’s, we need more vets and we need more help from the general public.

    Our rulers are too busy funding their lavish lifestyles. In absence of even basic free medical care for the poor, the Government cant even fund a National Ambulance Service for humans let alone do anything for animals.

    If we want to have anything done, we’ll have to do it ourselves.

    Tahir Yousaf
    Pakistan Animal Rights Organization

  4. I am a veterinary medicine student from England, who is very interested in rabies.
    If the animal welfare society could organise accomodation, a mobile unit or something similar, then many veterinary students and even qualified vets would be willing to come across and volunteer in a rabies campaign. Mass vaccinations and sterilisations of pet and stray dogs and cats could easily be implimented, thus greatly reducing human casualties of rabies. The vaccination could also include leishmania, which is another horrid zoonotic disease.
    I would also be able to organise sponsorhip and get money and drugs sent over from here.
    If someone could get in touch with me then we could organise something together.
    Jennifer Irving

  5. Ya , i agree both with Jeniffer ad yousaf, but you know it’s very serious problem and we can eliminate it through proper way,
    because we face many obstacles, like no proper vaccination, no good and WHO reccomended vaccination for public,
    CDC, Atlanat, USA

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