PHUKET : More than 100 injection centers have been set up across the island in a drive to vaccinate Phuket’s dogs and cats against rabies.
The livestock office-led campaign began on February 16 and will wrap up April 28. Centers are operating daily except for weekends and public holidays.
“Instances of infection in dogs seem to be on the decline,” said Dr Weerapab Tuemkiatpaisarn, a veterinarian with Phuket Provincial Livestock Office.
“We take random samples from dogs exhibiting suspicious symptoms such as nervous behavior and excessive salivation. In 1993, we found that one in every five dogs sampled was infected with the rabies virus,” he said.
Dr Weerapab said there have been cases of human infection on the island, with the number of occurrences peaking in 1992. Since then, the prevalence of the disease has declined.
As of 2000 there have been no detections of the virus in humans or dogs, he said.
However, there are still large numbers of stray animals in Phuket which pose a risk.
In 2009 Phuket Provincial Livestock Office counted 12,958 dogs, of which 2,567 were stray. There were 4,203 cats counted, with 1,270 strays.
The statistics were compiled from the number of animals brought in for vaccination and those being fed at temples, schools, beaches and villages by various organizations such as the Soi Dog Foundation.
“We believe these numbers to represent around 80% of the total cat and dog population in Phuket,” Dr Weerapab said, noting that some owners do not vaccinate their pets and that an exact count of stray animals is impossible.
Cautioning that the number of stray animals will continue to grow in the future, Dr Weerapab intends to implement a sterilization program.
“One female dog will breed two times a year, giving birth to six to eight puppies each time,” he said, pointing out the need to act quickly. “I don’t want to have to deal with this problem when there are 100,000 stray dogs and cats on the island.”
“The cost of sterilization is not cheap, about 1,000 baht. Some people do not sterilize their pets for this reason, so I am starting a project to sterilize 1,200 stray female dogs next year after receiving funding from Phuket Provincial Office.”
For information regarding the rabies vaccination drive, contact Dr Weerapab on 086-3574582 or Phuket Provincial Livestock Office on 076-216934.
— Atchaa Khamlo
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