In anti-rabies drive, Sarawak demands oil palm planters report all dogs they own

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah says the state government is serious in the fight to curb the spread of rabies, October 2, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah says the state government is serious in the fight to curb the spread of rabies, October 2, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, Aug 5 — Oil palm plantation owners are now required to report the number of dogs on their estate to the Sarawak government — regardless of whether they are kept as pets or strays.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah said the initiative is part of the state government’s measures to control the spread of rabies.

Plantation owners have one month to send their report to the nearest divisional offices of the state Veterinary Services Department.

He said plantations near the Sarawak border with Indonesian Kalimantan in particular, must comply with the directive.

“At the same time, all Immigration and Customs officers manning all state exit and entry points must ensure that no dogs are brought in from Kalimantan by owners or workers,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting on an anti-rabies operation carried out from July 31 to August 4 covering the Sri Aman, Lubok Antu and Betong districts. 

“The same directive goes to our marine police and other enforcement agencies providing security coverage along our coastline,” he said. 

Uggah, who is also the state disaster management committee chairman, said he is thankful that the public were now better informed and understood the seriousness of the rabies threat.

“Even the non-governmental bodies which used to complain against the operation are now less vocal,” he said. 

He said he had received a WhatsApp message from a member of the public who told him that there were stray dogs at the Reservoir Park here, claiming a number of people have been bitten. 

“Many too have expressed their support on the suggestion that people should stop feeding stray dogs in public places,” he said. 

Uggah also noted that dog owners have been very co-operative in getting their pets vaccinated in the rural areas and longhouses where the latest operation was carried out.

In the operation carried out in Sri Aman, Lubok Antu and Betong districts, he said a total of 832 stray dogs and 13 cats were removed. 

He added that owners in Betong have been most co-operative. 

Kuching remains the main battleground in the fight against rabies, Uggah said, attributing it to the large presence of strays that roam public places like Reservoir Park. 

Uggah said Sarawak found the past Penang government’s removal of all stray dogs to curb the spread of rabies to be impractical for Malaysia’s largest state. 

“First Penang is an island while Sarawak shares a long and porous common border with Kalimantan from where the disease is believed to have spread from. 

“Secondly, although the then Penang chief minister had ordered for all dogs to be removed, the order was rescinded on the second day after a public outcry,” Uggah pointed out. 

He also said the culture was very different in Sarawak, especially among the native people who keep dogs to hunt and for security. 

Uggah said the state’s next anti-rabies operation will cover Sibu, Kanowit and Kapit districts and will be held from August 28 to September 4, followed by coverage in Saratok, Sarikei, Meradong and Julau districts from September 5 to 12.

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