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GEORGE TOWN, Sept 22 ― Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today told an international group promising free anti-rabies vaccine to stop the state’s culling of strays to show that the 50,000 doses offered exist.
Lim, who is already under pressure from various animal welfare groups for approving the culling of stray dogs in the state in bid to stamp out rabies, told the NGO to simply deliver the vaccines now.
“If they say they have the vaccines, bring it here, show it to us, don't just talk about it,” he said in a press conference at his office today.
He was responding to a statement by Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS) that offered the vaccines and manpower to assist the state in mass inoculation of dogs in the state.
Lim also told them to bring their experts on rabies and disease control to reveal their proposals to the authorities here.
“Send their experts to meet with the Veterinary Services Department and Health Ministry and talk to them, convince them first,” he said.
He insisted that the state's decision to capture and kill all stray dogs to control the spread of rabies were based on recommendations from experts from the Veterinary Services Department and Health Ministry.
Lim pointed out that he had willingly met with local animal groups such as 4Paws and Save Our Strays (SOS) on Sunday to listen to their concerns on the mass culling of stray dogs.
He said the NGOs, including WVS, must first convince the experts from the Veterinary Services Department and Health Ministry as they are the ones making recommendations to the state.
Lim again called on all quarters to be rational and professional about this issue as it was a matter of public health.
He added that Penang is not the only state that started killing all stray dogs in the state as Perlis and Kedah had also started the same operation since rabies was detected in the states.
“I don't understand why only Penang is questioned and attacked for taking this step when Perlis and Kedah are also doing this,” he said.
Lim stressed that this is not a political issue and that the state is working closely with federal agencies, the Veterinary Services Department and Health Ministry, to control the spread of rabies.
Veterinary Services Department director Dr Siti Salmiah Tahir, who was present at the press conference, confirmed that the state has run out of rabies vaccines as of last night.
“We are still waiting for new stock to arrive, the latest by October,” she said.
She also noted that the number of people bitten by dogs had risen dramatically from 36 cases as of early yesterday to 41 cases last night.
In the 36 cases, 21 were by strays while 15 by pets.
A total 342 stray dogs in Penang were killed since the culling operation started on September 16.
Of the 342 dogs, only 50 samples were taken to be sent to the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh, Perak for diagnosis on rabies.
So far, only three stray dogs, who had bitten humans in Penang, were tested positive for rabies and no humans have been tested positive for rabies.