No stray dogs exempted in Kuching anti-rabies crackdown, says Sarawak DCM

Datuk Douglas Uggah said granting any exemption could only backfire in the fight against the spread of rabies. — Bernama pic
Datuk Douglas Uggah said granting any exemption could only backfire in the fight against the spread of rabies. — Bernama pic

KUCHING, April 18 — The state Disaster Management Committee today stressed that no exemption will be given to any stray or free roaming dogs targeted for removal in the anti-rabies operations here from April 22 to May 2.

Its chairman Datuk Douglas Uggah said granting any exemption could only backfire in the fight against the spread of the deadly disease.

“We will not entertain any request for exemption from any residential areas or community associations,” he said after chairing the committee meeting here.

Uggah, who is also a deputy chief minister, said he has received requests from non-governmental organisations for certain residential areas to be exempted from the anti-rabies operations.

He said if such requests were granted, then other areas would also be asking for the same thing.

“This would then render the fight against the disease an exercise in futility and Sarawak and its people would continue to be at risk,” he said.

The committee’s meeting today was also attended by Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury Wee and Save our Strays (SOS) president Kitty Chin.

Also in attendance were Tabuan Tranquillity Neighbourhood Committee vice chairman Dean Kuan and Green Heights and Borneo Garden Neighbourhood Committee secretary Andrew Tsen.

Uggah said the state government had a very critical responsibility to carry out in combating the outbreak of rabies which started in June 2017.

“The fight is against rabies. It is not against the pet dogs. We have to remove the strays. We have to get more pets vaccinated.

“During the coming operation, those dogs that are kept within the compound of the owners’ houses will not be affected,” he explained, expressing hope that the owners who have yet to vaccinate their dogs to do so.

“Since the outbreak, we have lost 16 lives and we do not want to lose anymore,” he added .

On allegations that some operation teams had entered houses to tranquilise dogs, Uggah said it was not true.

“But what was actually happening was that the dogs were tranquilised by the roadsides, and then they escaped into people’s homes. The members of the teams then entered to retrieve the dogs.

“There is, in place, the standard operating procedure followed on how the operation should be strictly done,” he said.

On the upcoming anti-rabies operations, Uggah said team members would have to get signed permission from house-owners to retrieve any targeted dogs that had escaped into any house compound.

“The teams will be given the forms for them to bring around,” he added.

Uggah said Putrajaya has been helping the state government to combat the spread of the rabies outbreak by allocating RM8.9 million on top of the RM22 million from the state.

He said the federal Veterinary Service Department is helping the state with 56 veterinary personnel, besides providing the dog vaccines and other equipment.

On the fears expressed by members of the public over the presence of the armed military personnel in the anti-rabies operations, he said they were there to provide security.

“They are there not to shoot the dogs with their automatic weapons and so far not a single bullet has been fired,” he said.

Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who was also present at the meeting, said the fight against rabies is too big for any individual group to handle.

“It is a very big issue. There are some recalcitrant people out there who do not care for the law or the welfare of others,” he said, adding that he has seen young children being horrifically bitten on the faces which required plastic surgery.

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