Across the world, hundreds of thousands of stray dogs are killed by government-led inhumane mass cullings, during which animals are poisoned, electrocuted, clubbed or shot in attempts to curb the spread of rabies. However, in the lead up to World Rabies Day on Sept. 28, Bali's government has committed to a more humane and successful approach to eradicating rabies, implementing a model program that other countries can begin to use as part of their own rabies control efforts.
The Bali government today signed an agreement authorizing a mass vaccination campaign to immunize nearly 400,000 dogs. The new, island-wide program is being funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), working closely with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA,) and is an essential first step toward the government's goal to eradicate rabies from the island by 2012.
Mike Baker, Chief Executive Officer of WSPA, said: "By choosing to eradicate rabies through a dedicated vaccination effort, Bali is taking the most effective route to protecting the health of its citizens - as well as the thousands of tourists who visit the island every year. With this campaign, Bali is set to take center stage and demonstrate a perfect model for rabies control to other countries where rabies continues to be a challenge."
Earlier this year, WSPA and BAWA developed a pilot vaccination project for two of Bali's regencies. BAWA teams vaccinated 65,000 dogs during this time, thereby preventing rabies from spreading throughout the dog population and protecting human health in the area - these accomplishments lead to today's agreement with the Bali government. As part of the new agreement, teams of trained animal handlers will begin to immunize dogs in the remaining seven regencies of Bali. (Footnote 1) The World Health Organization (WHO) describes such vaccinations as, "Globally, the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people." (Footnote 2)
The Governor of Bali, speaking at the signing event, said, "The Balinese community live in harmony with its animals and did not want to see them killed, but we did not have a choice in our fight against rabies - thanks to the international community, we now have a humane alternative for protecting our people and our animals."
News of this joint initiative is being welcomed by the international community committed to the common goal of rabies eradication. Deborah Briggs, the CEO of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, said: "We've seen enough evidence from around the world to reinforce our belief that this mass vaccination project is the single most effective measure in saving the lives of people on Bali." (Footnote 3)
WSPA designed the vaccination program in close consultation with the Bali government, as the authorities will reclaim responsibility for managing and resourcing the project following the end of phase one. This phase has been supported by AusAID, who generously donated 370,000 doses of the rabies vaccine to supplement those already procured by the Bali government.
The Bali government's resuming ownership for the program will ensure that the critical immunity threshold - of at least 70 percent of Bali's dog population being vaccinated - is maintained year on year, until the island can safely celebrate being rabies free.
1. Bali is divided into nine regencies: Buleleng, Jembrana, Tabanan, Badung, Bangli, Karangasem, Denpasar, Klungkung and Gianyar. As part of a WSPA-funded pilot project, teams from BAWA have already completed vaccinating more than 70 percent of the dogs in Gianyar and Bangli regencies.
2. Please see WHO's fact-sheet on rabies: www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/
3. As WSPA pointed out while submitting its proposal for island-wide vaccination, animal vaccination has been shown to be the most effective way to control rabies. In Mexico, for example, 16 million dogs are vaccinated every year, and the disease is close to eradication. In Flores, Indonesia, one third of the dog population was culled between 1998 and 2001, yet rabies there remains a serious problem. For more information, click here.
4: WSPA's funding for the Bali vaccination project is supported in part by funds received from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.