With dogs poisoned, animal welfare group urges restraint in rabies news

An SSPCA poster informing the public on how to recognise neutered strays that have been vaccinated against rabies.
An SSPCA poster informing the public on how to recognise neutered strays that have been vaccinated against rabies.

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KUCHING, July 20 — The Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) today appealed to the media to avoid sensationalising the rabies outbreak in the Serian Division to prevent panic among the public.

SSPCA president Datin Dona Drury Wee said there were numerous reports of dogs and cats being poisoned by neighbours and the public due to the usage of terms such as “mad dog disease” or “mad dogs” by the media.

“We saw one video of a dog that had been poisoned and it was lying on the road, pawing in such pain,” she said, adding that the dog’s paws were bleeding from clawing at the rough road.

Wee said the correct term should be just “rabies”.

Although frequently associated with dogs, the virus can be propagated by most mammals including cats and rodents.

Wee said SSPCA wanted to prevent dogs from being viewed as the only animal that can act as a vector for the deadly virus.

“It is just that humans are more in contact with dogs in their daily lives, and so, 95 per cent of the human rabies incidents are caused by bites from rabid dogs,” she said, adding that rabies cannot be contracted from bites by healthy and vaccinated dogs.

Wee then urged the media to reassure the public over the ongoing outbreak, saying that a panic would hamper efforts by her group to inculcate good practices in eradicating rabies in Sarawak.

Four people have already died from rabies this year, the first reported deaths from the disease in nearly two decades here.

Rabies has also since spread from Sarawak to the peninsula, with areas of Perak declared as rabies zones.

* Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that five people have died from rabies. It has since been corrected.

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