Scores of dogs, cats killed after rabies outbreak
One of only four dogs that remain at Jalor border village in Chiang Rai. All other dogs and cats were taken away by livestock officials and believed put to death following an outbreak of rabies. (Photo by Chinpat Chaimon)
CHIANG RAI: Residents of the small border community of Ban Jalor say they had little choice but to hand over more than 100 pet dogs and cats to livestock officials to be put down after eight canines in the area were infected with rabies.
They could not afford the alternative presented to them by livestock officials, quarantine the animals for six months in cages or fenced enclosures they would have to build themselves.
Now, only four pet dogs remain at Jalor village in tambon Mae Fa Luang.
News of the culling of the pets sparked an outcry by activists from seven animal rights organisations, who began a campaign to gather signatures and petition the Livestock Department chief for an explanation from the officials responsible.
Pongsak Wisetpimolkul, 26, owner of two of the four remaining dogs, told the Bangkok Post it began when a dog owned by a teacher at a border police school about 500 metres from their village became rabid on Jan 21.
The infected dog then bit seven other dogs, which also became infected with rabies, Mr Pongsak said.
Livestock officials asked the owners to hand over the infected dogs for eradication to prevent a major outbreak of the disease. The owners raised no objection, he said.
Then, on Jan 26, livestock officials called a meeting with owners of pet dogs and cats in Jalor village to discuss the rabies infections.
The officials told them there was an earlier outbreak of rabies in Mae Salaeb village in the same district and the people there handed over their dogs and cats for eradication, Mr Pongsak said.
At first, many people at Jalor would not agree to allow the pets they had raised for many years to be killed. They proposed the animals should instead be put in quarantine for 14 days. If the animals were not infected, there was no need to kill them.
But the livestock officials said the animals must be quarantined for six months, and the owners must build cages or fenced enclosures to prevent their pets roaming outside.
If a dog or cat was released or escaped from its enclosure and bit people or other animals, the owners would face legal action. Penalties included a fine of tens of thousands of baht and even a jail term, Mr Pongsak said.
Many residents had no knowledge of the law, and they were also poor. They could not afford cages for their animals and had no money to pay a hefty fine. They had been left with no choice but to allow their animals to be put down, he said.
On Jan 27, all but two families handed over their animals, mainly dogs, said Mr Pongsak.
But he refused to hand over his two dogs, as did a woman in the village, Thidarat Mayer, who also had two dogs.
They were building cages for their pets, as ordered by Mae Fa Luang livestock office.
Another resident, Alongkorn Wiboondetkhachorn, said he had to hand over a cat he had raised since it was a kitten.
He and the others were saddened by the officials’ actions. They could not be certain, but believed their pets had already been killed.
If not, they wanted the authorities to return their animals to them.
An official at Mae Fa Luang livestock office said officials had followed proper procedure for controlling an outbreak of the disease. A public vote was taken on the animals eradication.
The official, who declined to be named, said the villagers had not been threatened, but the disease control procedure and consequences of an outbreak of rabies had been made clear to them.
The provincial livestock office would explain the matter to the Livestock Department and other concerned groups, he said.
One of the two families who refused to let their dogs be taken away build a cage for their two pets on Friday. (Photo by Chinpat Chaimon)