A Case of Too Little, Too Late On Rabies Irks Bandar Kuching Lawmaker


COMMENT: While I welcome the State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas’ announcement that they will start imposing an immediate ban on all pet dogs and cats from outside the state that do not have proper documentation, this step should have been done much earlier and even right at the beginning of the outbreak itself, reportedly last July.

With the first human case reportedly started in Serian in July of 2017, why did it take more than a year from the State Disaster Management Committee to start enforcing such measures when they have full knowledge that the disease likely originated from Kalimantan and was probably spread through inter-border transport or even migration.

Is this a clear admission that the important step to curb the disease that was supposedly taken right at the beginning has not been enforced since the start of the outbreak?

This clearly shows the lack of urgency shown by the State Government to properly deal with the outbreak which was first detected in July of 2017. At that time, there were only five villages that were declared as rabies-infected areas and only contained in Serian, but since then, the outbreak has spread to many different places and currently it stands at 41 rabies affected areas across the state comprising of Kuching division, Samarahan, Serian, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu, Kapit and Miri.

On top of that, I applaud the target set by the State Disaster Management to achieve 70% vaccination coverage state-wide to provide a herd immunity and prevent enzootic transmission of rabies to humans, however there was little mentioned on new strategies or even enforcement on how we plan to achieve that over a reasonable timeframe so that even after the meeting that had last Tuesday.

Currently, even after more than a year, we are currently only at an estimated of 28% since the real figures of dog population is also relatively unknown due to weak enforcement of dog licensing since years ago. Certain local council and jurisdiction do not even have bye-laws for pet’s registration and this has been overlooked by the Local Government ministry all these years.

I have constantly advocated the need for door to door vaccination in order for the target of 70% to be achieved. As helpful and needed are the weekly mass vaccination exercise at targeted locations, but that is fully dependent on the pet owners to bring their pets to the assigned area for vaccination and does not cover strays and also pets which the owners do not bring for different reasons. They could be working on those days or some have feedback saying it is difficult to transport their pets to those areas.

Through door to door, while I understand the energy and workforce needed for this, but this gives a better coverage and also a better estimate of the dogs and pets in a certain area as the pets that are vaccinated can be registered straight away or even if needed, to be spayed or neutered. An early notice can be given to a certain residential area informing of the time the team is coming and thus the residents and pet owners can prepare the necessary and also make sure they are home when the team from the veterinary department makes their visit.

On top of that, I urge the Deputy Minister not to delay anymore the tabling of the bill hopefully in the November Legislative Assembly sitting so that dog ownership can be monitored through pet microchip implants.

This is to properly identify the pet owners so that we can keep them accountable and responsible to take care of their dogs and animals in an attempt to address the issue of dog/pet dumping contributing to the increase of stray dogs. This is important because, no matter what ever decision made by the State Government to control the population of strays, the issue will repeat itself if irresponsible owners continue to dump their dogs.

• Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching