GEORGE TOWN • Malaysia is battling to curb the spread of rabies in three states, where more than 900 stray dogs have been culled, as the often fatal viral disease raises its ugly head, media reported yesterday.
The culling exercise is now in full swing with some 200 personnel from the Veterinary Services Department throughout the country deployed to rabies-hit Penang, Kedah and Perlis.
Dr Siti Salmiah Tahir, Penang's director of veterinary services, said the strays were caught using tranquillisers and put to sleep by injection on site.
"The first shot sedates the canine. The second shot goes in 10 minutes later when the dog is thoroughly tranquillised. Death takes place in less than a minute," veterinarian K. Pavabakaran said last Friday. "It is painless."
The culling, announced last Thursday by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, goes on even as animal rights groups mount fresh protests.
"We understand the danger and we care for the health of our people but capturing and disposing stray dogs are inhumane and ineffective," said Mr Dalbinder Singh Gill, spokesman for the animal welfare Stop the Killing Group.
"If killing is the best solution to end a disease, should the state government start killing human if there was an HIV outbreak?" He was quoted by the Malay Mail Online as saying yesterday .
But Mr Lim said last Friday that the Penang government was firm on its decision to put stray dogs to sleep to prevent a rabies endemic here.
"This is not my decision but the decision of the state Health Services director and state Veterinary Services director, who are experts on the issue," he said.
The three states have been declared as rabies-infected areas after more than 20 cases of rabies in humans were reported, Bernama reported last Thursday.
The disease, transmitted from animals to humans through bites and transfer of mucus or saliva, can cause death by attacking the central nervous system, causing fever and muscular spasms.
Mr Lim added that swift action was needed because rabies, which was first detected in Perlis and Kedah, had found its way to Penang in such a short period of time.
The authorities said Penangites could get their dogs vaccinated for RM35 (S$11.60) at the state Veterinary Services Department in Bukit Tengah.
"The people can criticise all they want, but when something bad happens or when people die, the one answerable is the state government, not the NGOs," Mr Lim said, referring to non-governmental organisations formed by animal lovers.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK