Start Vaccinating the Dogs, Stop Killing Them

The speech has been re-written into the form of a blog post. The non-profit I represented in the original speech may have been fictional, however during the needless stray culling that took place in Penang, Malaysia in 2015, the work of the tireless volunteers and organisations are real.

We can take action and be better people.

Featured image by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash.

Rabies is a disease where most people start fearing a horrible, zombie-dog apocalypse.

Media imagery has contributed to how information is impressed in our minds. Who doesn’t feel scared when you see a blown-up image of a large fierce dog barring its sharp teeth on a pitch black background?

Throw in a few more facts about how rabies is both deadly and untreatable, plus the unintentional nudge to remind people how there are large, dangerous stray dogs existing right outside their neighborhood …

“This is not the time to be compassionate,” they yell. “It’s either us – or those mad dogs!”

Parents become worried about their children’s safety. Families fret over their elderly, warning them not to take a stroll out alone. People grow paranoid when they see stray dogs walking across the streets.

In 2015, this dramatic, widespread misconception led to the mass-killing of 2,000 dogs in the state of Penang, in a single month.

Sensationalized Myths

Let’s clear up the scary myths surrounding this disease. You deserve the facts.

Rabies is an infectious disease affecting the nervous systems of mammals, including humans. The virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Most commonly through a bite wound.

This transmission through biting presents an explanation as to why people form a nightmarish, zombie-dog picture in their minds.

However, unless you approach an already aggressive-looking dog, the chances of an attack is close to zero. According to the Mercer County Wildlife Centre, the number of human deaths caused by lightning strikes far exceed those caused by rabies.

Still, why can’t we eliminate the strays? Aren’t they the potential carriers of rabies?

This is why.

The Transmission Cycle in Dogs

Here’s an example using dogs from Area A, B and C.

  1. When we kill the existing dogs in Area A, the dogs from Area B and Area C would move in.
  2. They do so to expand their territory and acquire a new food source.
  3. Naturally, the surviving dogs in Area A defends their territory from these B and C intruders.
  4. A fight ensues, a lot of biting comes in.
  5. The rabies virus is transmitted from sick dogs to healthy ones.

The continuous culling of strays repeats this cycle again and again.

We are actually escalating the spreading of rabies if we blindly insist that this barbaric killing would miraculously solve our problem.

And dogs are not the only carriers.

Rats can be carriers, cows can be carriers, monkeys can be carriers. Any warm-blooded mammal can be carrier. Do we need to lose our common sense and kill every single one of them now?

No, because there’s a solution available.

Vaccination: Humane, Scientifically and Statistically-Proven

Rabies is actually a 100 percent preventable through vaccination.

The World Health Organization, as well as international bodies such as Mission Rabies, have continuously promoted dog vaccination programs to halt the spread of rabies.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease. Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people. 

Statement from World Health Organization

Let’s go back to the earlier scenario of Area A, B, C.

  1. When the existing dog population is vaccinated, they will not contract the disease even if they are bitten by infected dogs.
  2. Vaccination ends the transmission cycle.

Isn’t this the outcome we all aim for?

Make the Right Decision

We all have loved ones whom we would put our hearts on the line to protect.

Understand that this fight is not “animal fanatics against other humans” or “humans against mad, dangerous dogs”.

This fight is all of us against this horrible disease called rabies.

Show people that this senseless killing can and must be stopped. Create a better, healthier and kinder community for the animals on the streets as well as for us – together.

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