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Dogs making the headlines in Sarawak again

Dogs are making the headlines again in Sarawak – thanks to news reports last week that seven local councils had teamed up to catch stray dogs roaming around the Batu Kawa MJC area in Kuching.

The operation was one of the measures taken by the state government following reports of an increase in the number of bites by suspected rabid dogs in Kuching and Sarikei Divisions last month.

Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas revealed that the State Disaster Management Committee decided to launch the operation against stray dogs in a bid to curb the spread of rabies in the state.

27 rabies-infected areas have been declared in Sarawak so far, with SMK Julau No 1 in Julau, Sarikei Division declared as the latest area with the rabies outbreak on December 30, 2017.

The 26th rabies-infected area was declared a few months earlier -on October 23, 2017- in Kampung Sampun Gerunggang, Asajaya in Samarahan Division.

The Sarawak government declared five villages in Serian, namely, Kampung Paon Rimu, Kampung Lebur, Kampung Paun Rimu Bakung, Kampung Remun and Kampung Kerait as rabiesinfected areas after a six-yearold girl and her four-year-old brother from Kampung Paon, Sungai Rimu, about 70 kms from Kuching in the Serian District, died after contracting rabies in July last year. That led to the mass vaccination of dogs and cats in villages, towns and Kuching City and the subsequent declaration of more rabies-affected areas.

Then, slowly, there were no more rabies outbreaks and no more news on rabies. Suddenly, on December 30, 2017, SMK Julau No 1 in Julau, Sarikei Division was declared as the latest area with rabies outbreak. It was unnerving news for many pet owners. As the owner of two dogs, I am quite worried about the latest rabies outbreak and operation against stray dogs in the Batu Kawa MJC area.

Thanks to the Internet, my nieces, who were away from home, sent me, by WhatsApps, the schedule of the latest operat ion agains t s t ray dogs in Kuching. I made sure my dogs were securely locked inside my house compound on the day of the scheduled operation in my housing estate. My dogs are like my family members. I do not want to lose them. I cry each time a dog dies.

One organisation which came out strongly against the move to remove strays from the streets in order to curb rabies in the state was the Save Our Strays (SOS) Kuching Association.

It urged the authorities concerned to enforce an active mass vaccination programme not only for pets but also for strays in order to deal with rabies. It encouraged the public to neuter or spay their pets and keep them within their compounds, vaccinate them and not to abandon or dump them.

The association also called on the government to set up a clinic to help pet owners who could not afford to neuter, spay or vaccinate their pets.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments by one of the association’s committee members, Kimberly Lim that the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should work together to raise awareness of rabbies in an educational manner instead of instilling fear and panic among the public.

Said Lim: “We should not make the public think that rabies is something that cannot be controlled or that it’s very difficult to curb. “It is something that can be prevented and if we do that, it will help keep Sarawak free from rabies.

“The most effective way to stop rabies is still by vaccination, not by killing.” What she said should be food for thought, especially for relevant authorities. Meanwhile, in the United States, dogs are also making the news headlines.

Those left outdoors have been reported to be dying in droves as the country suffers from its coldest winter, with high winds and heavy snow, since 1918. Stories of dogs freezing to death have caused shock throughout the nation and animal welfare groups and local authorities have warned the public to make sure their pets are well sheltered.

Since 2018 is the Year of the Dog, particularly, the Earth Dog, is it coincidence that dogs, our canine friends, are making the news headlines this year?

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