The assurance that there will be no countrywide slaughter came from the DLD’s Director of the Division of Veterinary Quarantine and Inspection, Dr Burin Sorasithisooksakul.
It came after social-media-fuelled fear of a rabies outbreak across many parts of the country led some people to call for a “Set Zero” solution to be applied to Thailand’s estimated 8 million street dogs.
In a private meeting with Soi Dog’s Special Project Coordinator, Ms Varaporn Jittanonta, Dr Burin stressed that the DLD does have the legal right to destroy dogs believed or suspected to be rabid.
However, the department will form a commission to decide on means and ways of controlling rabies. The commission, he said, will include representatives of the public and NGOs.
In addition, he said that he had scheduled an urgent meeting of provincial-level livestock officials to review principles of rabies control.
When laboratory tests confirm a case of rabies in a certain area, a Rabies Outbreak Zone will be declared in that area.
Mass free vaccination will be carried out in the zone by the DLD and local authorities, Dr Burin said, adding that NGOs will be urged to help.
All dogs and cats without owners living within a radius of one kilometre of where the infected animal was found will be impounded for at least a month for observation.
Unowned dogs and cats outside that radius but within five kilometres will be vaccinated and kept under observation for at least a month.
Dogs and cats that have owners must be re-vaccinated and kept strictly within the owner’s premises for at least a month.
Once the impounded dogs and cats are declared rabies-free they will be neutered and may be claimed by feeders or other interested people, or offered for adoption.
Dr Burin appealed for cooperation from all people involved and from NGOs in order to eliminate rabies from Thailand by a target date of 2023.
He also promised that the DLD will listen to people’s views more than it has in the past, but said no one should panic.
He added that he understands the power of social media but urged people to be sure of the facts before sharing posts. The DLD will make contact details for its offices more readily available so that people can request accurate information.
The DLD has offices in all 77 provinces and 878 districts in Thailand. The website (in Thai and English) is here: www.dld.go.th
Meanwhile, on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani province, which is classified as a red zone, a local NGO has advised that no vaccines are available to supply to panic-driven owners.
On Koh Samui, also in Surat Thani, Soi Dog has vaccinated and sterilised over 6,000 dogs in the past few months and will shortly go to Koh Pha-ngan. They are using more expensive combined vaccines that cover rabies in combination with other common canine diseases. These combined shots are still available.
Soi Dog’s Phuket shelter advised that rabies-only vaccine is now difficult to find and they have only enough stock for two months – if they use it only on cats.
It should be noted that in Hua Hin the only human case was the result of a scratch by a cat.
To bring rabies down to zero requires, at least 70% of a dog population be vaccinated. After that, a maintenance program of vaccination is essential. Animals need to be re-vaccinated once a year.
Previous reports suggest that one million vaccines were acquired by the government but there are estimated to be over eight million street dogs in Thailand.
The World Rabies Bank holds large quantities of canine rabies vaccine which governments can apply for at very little cost. Commercial rabies vaccine costs less than B20 per dose.