Stray dogs were the focus of my interest at the recent presscon of the Department of Health in San Fernando, in a monthly meet-the-press also tackling HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis. My interest dropped the latter two because that morning as I opened the gate at home to drive to the affair, there it was- the daily neighbor’s dog poo right in the middle of the pathway.
But it was not canine excrement alone that outraged me that morning, just in time for the DOH presscon. It was rabies- its being so horrible to die from, its being so preventable, but especially its being there despite Congress.
First, some consolation. This, Angeles Mayor Ed Pamintuan has over a report that his city has not had any citizen dying from rabies since 2012.
Then the bad news: human rabies cases have been rising all over the country in the past years, from 266,220 in 2010 to 783,663 in 2015. About 74.9 percent were from dogs, 20.4 percent from cats and 4.7 percent others.
You don’t have to demand stats on what kind of dogs were culprits. Any visit to a typical urban or rural community gives you the answer- the stray variety. Who hasn’t been chased by an angry dog?
In Barangay Lakandula, Mabalacat City where I live, I have memorized streets towards bakeries and “talipapa’s” for emergency purchases. No, not by their names, but by their dogs. I never negotiate routes where I had encountered barking and growling dogs. Even then, I feel more secure carrying a stick on cleared roads. The best option, of course, is doing more expensive marketing in malls, where only proper dogs are allowed, if at all. But why bear with daily dog fear because of rabies?
The concern of the DOH is on human rabies. The canine side is domain of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) , if I’m not mistaken, albeit rabies is never industry. While BAI promotes anti-rabies vaccination for dogs, the DOH has places where anti-rabies vaccines can be had by humans munched mostly by doggies.
At the DOH presscon, one doctor cited a law, whose RA number I can not now recall, on how the government copes with rabies. She said the law prescribes punishment for those found to have failed to inoculate their dogs against rabies. It is a law unknown to Pinoys, because it is hardly implemented.
It is also a law those teeth is found only in dogs still roaming around the neighborhood with impunity. It defies the following logic: if most of the human rabies deaths resulted from stray dogs which turned out to have rabies, why is there no law against stray dogs? Dogs normally attack only strangers, not their owners, which explains why most, if not all, dog-bite victims are unknown to the dogs.
There is law requiring dogs and other such pets to get anti-rabies vaccination. How to enforce this will, I suppose, always remain problematic because of the number of pet owners in the country. But the number of stray dogs is less and such dogs are easy to monitor.
This I’ve said before. Considering rabies is a national problem, it requires a national law, not just a local law here and there and not elsewhere. Stray dog owners should be fined relatively heavily, say, P500 or P1,000 every time their dog is caught astray, with deputized barangay tanods getting 60 percent of the fine, the rest to go to the barangay coffers.
The tanods would be vigilant catching the dogs and confronting their owners, until such time that the owners get used to keeping their dogs within proper premises, away from rabid bitings.
In the meantime, while Congress sleeps on this until one of its members catches serious rabies, local legislators can pass such a law. Or shall we have our dogs run after local legislators first.?