SSPCA conducting one of its educational programmes for children.

KUCHING: It is hoped that microchipping of pet dogs will be made compulsory soon to help track owners of lost or abandoned dogs.

According to Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury Wee, local councils here are starting to implement microchipping of all dogs.

“This will help to track the owner of a dog if the dog gets lost. Other information such as the vaccination status will also be kept in the microchip data.

“We hope that microchipping will soon be made compulsory as this is the only way we can return lost pets to their owners, and ascertain the correct owner so that animals will no longer be abandoned or allowed to roam freely,” she told The Borneo Post, adding that the owner will be given a compound by the authorities for their irresponsible actions.

She reminded all pet owners to get their pets vaccinated against rabies annually.

“There is no such excuse that ‘my pet never goes out’. Dogs can climb fences at night just as well as any cat, and even if your dog doesn’t go out, what is to prevent an unknown dog from climbing in and infecting your unvaccinated, and therefore unprotected, pet?

“By vaccinating your pet, you not only protect your pet but your family from rabies as well.

“Don’t let your dog roam outside your house compound. Dogs should only be allowed out if they are on a leash. Your neighbours won’t appreciate it if your dog is allowed to defecate in front of their house every day,” she said.

She added that an unleashed dog could also pose a threat to young children playing outside.

As the rabies outbreak continues to ravage the state this year, Dona was saddened to hear that there had been two more human rabies deaths, after having had a few months without any.

“I feel that the general public do not take this disease seriously enough. So many times I have been asked, ‘Rabies still here ah?’.

“The public must realise that rabies will be with us for the next 10 years. It will only be under control if the government keeps up the rate of free vaccinations that they are giving throughout the whole of Sarawak.”

She said with an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 dogs in Sarawak, it is only when the state manages to vaccinate 70 per cent or 175,000 to 210,000 of dogs every year that it will gain some control on the disease.

“It is like vaccinating our children. Diseases like small pox and polio have only been eradicated through vaccination of the majority of the population.

“Why do we start to see outbreaks of measles in the USA now? Because many people are starting to stop getting their vaccinations,” she said.

On whether the outbreak has affected SSPCA’s activities and operations, Dona said they had to change the focus of their school educational programmes.

“We had to include talks about ‘Avoiding and Preventing Dog Bites’, along with our usual talks on responsible pet ownership.

“We also teach children in schools that whenever they come across a dog sleeping on the sidewalk, do not try to scare it. Wake it up and shoo it away because when a dog is startled, it may bite. There is the expression, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.

“There is a lot of information on the internet on how to avoid getting bitten by a dog, and how to understand a dog’s body language,” she explained.

She also noted that in the last two years, SSPCA has not organised its fundraising event ‘Wiggle Waggle Walk’.

“But we may revive it this year, on condition that cats and dogs that are participating must be able to show a valid anti-rabies vaccination on their medical cards.”

Dona said SSPCA had to stop accepting handovers from the general public because the shelter is overcrowded with abandoned animals.

“The shelter is still very active. In fact, our population has increased because of the increased abandonment of animals. Irresponsible owners dump their unwanted pets at our doorsteps all the time!

“Support for adoption of our animals dropped off initially but now the numbers are slowly getting better, as people learn that all of our animals have received the annual anti-rabies and core vaccinations. Some will be receiving their third vaccination in July, so the public can rest assured that these animals would be rabies-free.”

She stressed that spaying and neutering pets will reduce the number of unwanted litters and abandoned animals.

“We have received boxes containing puppies and kittens which were dumped at our shelter or even on sidewalks by irresponsible humans who won’t pay to get their pets neutered, but won’t think twice to callously throw these young animals away – most of the time, to let them starve to death. I don’t know of any religion that allows that!” she lamented.

On a related note, Dona also reminded the public to seek immediate medical attention if they have been scratched or bitten by any mammal, whether in Kuching or while on holiday in Bali or Phuket.

“Rabies is prevalent in most countries. Even in the USA, which does not have canine rabies because of stringent vaccination, the country still has rabies in its wildlife.

“So please remember that any mammal could be a potential carrier. But with proper medical attention, this disease is 99 per cent preventable,” she emphasised.