Communities have been encouraged to bring their pets to their nearest vaccination centres urgently. So far, 9 human lives have been lost this year as a result of rabies. Recently, a Johannesburg girl died of suspected symptoms. In Protea, Soweto, residents came in dribs and drabs to the mobile vaccination clinic. Some were not even sure why they had brought their dogs to the clinic.
‘We brought our dogs to be vaccinated so they don’t bite people. We’re not sure what can happen if they do not get this vaccination. Maybe it will go mad and bite people on the street. I don’t have an answer to that question’.
A lady arrived with her two unleashed dogs. Battling to keep them still as officials tried to vaccinate them, she said she ‘heard from school children that dogs were being vaccinated here’.
‘The children advised me to bring the dogs here for vaccination, plus the other one has ticks behind its ears, so I thought it was a good idea to bring them here. After all, we don’t know what dogs carry when they are sick. And what if it bites someone and that poison can transmit to a human being? She said.
But, for some of the Protea residents, bringing their dogs for vaccinations was not something new.
‘I brought my dog here so it can live longer because it’s ageing. Someone also advised us to have it vaccinated because it’s sick. I have had it for 14 years and it is not the first time I bring my dog for vaccination. I want to prevent it from contracting diseases. The reason I brought my dog here is that I heard there is a sickness doing the rounds in dogs; (that) it can also be transmitted to humans, meaning we can get sick too. So, I don’t want my dog to make people sick if it is, and I always take my dog for vaccination’, one resident said.
By law, all dogs should be vaccinated for rabies. In light of the recent turn of events, the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development say investigations show that none of the dogs that died of rabies was vaccinated.
Director of Animal Health Services at the department, Dr Dietana Nemudzivhadi says they now want to introduce a system where owners who do not obey the law would be fined.
‘Gauteng citizens need to realise that rabies vaccination is a legal requirement. As a state-controlled disease, all dogs should be vaccinated against it. It is a must. Going forward, we are contemplating on implementing law enforcement on those who do not comply with vaccination laws. Once we have rounded up all parts of Jo’burg, we want to check on all dog owners and see who has vaccinated their dogs or not’.
Dr Nemudzivhadi says the campaign is targeting specific areas.
‘We have emphasised on Jo’burg South and Jo’burg West, including Soweto. Those are the areas where we have had cases and we continue to have cases. So far, we have not had any cases in Ekhuruleni, but we have not ruled them out. Similar to Jo’burg North, we have not had a case this year’, she says.
Dr Nemudzivhadi advised the public that if they are bitten or scratched by a stray animal, they should wash it thoroughly with water and soap and to seek medical attention immediately.