Some Dog Lovers Are Not Above Lying

The recent rabies outbreak brought out the best in people. The resulting cull in the tristate areas of Perlis, Kedah and Penang galvanised animal lovers to volunteer their time and money to help save stray dogs from the cull. Even foreign NGOs came to offer their help.

However, it also brought out the worst in people. These folks call themselves dog lovers, but spend their time cursing those who do not agree with their opinions 100%. In fact, they often end up in a frenzy of trying to outdo each other in proving who loves stray dogs the most, instead of actually doing something positive.

Needless to say, the truth matters very little to them. All they care about is condemning those who disagree with them. They are certainly not above lying to win an argument. Let’s take a look at a new example – one Kenneth Fong, who posted this rebuttal to my article Turning Rabid Over Rabies :

Lately I come across one blog blogging about the recent culling of homeless dogs in Penang. I will address some very serious false allegation from the author.

(1) The author is using statement like eradicate rabies and tackle problem to confuse people. Eradicate mean to wipe out a problem and tackle in this context is to solve the current problem. WHO all this while never claimed that vaccination can wipe out rabies but can reduce the spreading of rabies within the community and culling totally cannot reduce the spreading of rabies and will only increase it.

The author also fail to address why CM LGE announce to cull all the homeless dogs in Penang on 18th September 2015. This guy deliberately chose not to mention this point in his post. Question is did the Malaysian Veterinary Services Department Enforcement Division director, Datuk Mohamed Radzuan Malek advised CM LGE to cull all the homeless dogs in Penang? The author failed to understand the reason of the outcry from all the animal lovers.

Source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/…/killing-of-stray-dogs-…

(3) The claim by this author is true where the WVS vaccine will only arrive by end of the year. With this, the author is proud to justify culling is needed but yet again this author deliberately chose not to mention that does this strengthen the justification to cull all the homeless dogs in Penang?

(4) Again the author failed or deliberately chose not to mention that CM LGE is the one who chose not to work with the NGO’s and refuse to take heed of the NGO’s advice on the very first day itself on 17th Sept 2015 when he announce the culling of all homeless dogs in Penang. On Friday 18th September the NGO’s wanted to see CM LGE but he order the guard to close down the grill door to prevent the NGO’s from entering the administrative office to hand over the memorandum. After being pressure only then agree to talk to the NGO’s on Sunday 20th Sept 2015.

(5) & (6) The author simply doesn’t know what he is trying to prove here. From pic # 5, he claimed 30 people were diagnosed with rabies as of 21st Sept 2015. How he derive out figure? From pic #6, he did state out that he is using the assumption that any victim getting bitten by rabies will be infected with rabies but report from the Director General of Health confirmed so far there’s no human being has been tested positive.
Source: http://www.mmgazette.com/situasi-terkini-kejadian-gigitan-a…

(7) Very bold claim from the author trying to belittle the World Health Organization (WHO) when he claimed that it’s not true when WHO states out culling will spread rabies. Hmmm…you know and I also know who is more credible in this claim. WHO or the author? The answer is very obvious right? I have attach a prove where culling does not work and vaccination is the way to go.

Source: http://www.slideshare.net/…/ndwc-chennai-2013-the-one-healt…

Now, let us dissect his “magnum opus” and see what really true, and what’s false. For brevity, I will ignore his petty insults and focus on his factual claims.

 

Claim #1 : WHO Never Claimed That Vaccinations Can Wipe Out Rabies

Verdict : False

Details : It has always been a WHO goal to wipe out rabies. In fact, that goal is stated in the very first sentence of the WHO Control And Elimination Strategies page. Note the use of the word “elimination“.

Global freedom from the threat of dog-mediated rabies is feasible within our lifetime.

This isn’t a pipe dream, because health authorities have successfully eradicated rabies through vaccines. The Serengeti National Park was declared a rabies-free zone after the Serengeti Health Initiative vaccinated 70% of the dog population.

The WHO even quote three projects in which they are in the process of eradicating rabies in endemic areas :

Tanzania – “The project site in the south-east of the country includes the Dar es Salaam, Lindi, Morogoro, Mtwara and Pwani regions. It comprises 24 districts and 459 wards, with a population of 6 200 000 humans (based on projections from the 2002 census data) and 400 000 dogs (estimated from specific demographic and geographic dog:human ratios).

Canine rabies vaccination in Tanzania
Canine rabies vaccination in Tanzania | Credit : University of Glasgow

South Africa – “This project is designed to be rolled out to neighbouring regions and countries in order to open up the southern African subcontinent in a massive effort to eliminate canine rabies. Stronger commitments from provincial authorities have alleviated many of the logistic, financial and managerial difficulties in implementing and maintaining successful dog vaccination strategies. External support will help Kwa-Zulu Natal to exert the final push towards the elimination of rabies in the province.

Philippines – “Priority will be given to western Visayas, since this region has been consistently highly endemic for human and canine rabies and has the highest number of patients with animal bites. As a result of logistic restrictions, the Philippine National Rabies Prevention Control Program is still between phases I and II. At the end of the project, it would move into Phase III of animal rabies control, with all the islands of Visayas declared rabies-free zones.

 

Claim #2 : Culling Totally Cannot Reduce Rabies

Verdict : False

Details : In the past, culling was used extensively as a means to control or eliminate rabies. We now know that it’s not very effective, and that mass vaccination is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate rabies. However, it would be false to claim that culling cannot possibly reduce rabies, or in Kenneth’s own words “culling totally cannot reduce rabies“.

It would be correct to say that studies have shown that culling cannot eliminate rabies in an endemic area. It would be incorrect to say that culling cannot reduce rabies.

The inconvenient fact is a targeted cull can reduce rabies. It is just not as effective as mass vaccination. That is why the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) still lists stray dog population control as one of the measures for tackling rabies. In the OIE Standard for Stray Dog Population Control, it’s stated at the end of Point 5c that :

Dogs that are removed from a community may be too numerous or may be unsuitable for any rehoming scheme. If euthanasia of these unwanted animals is the only option, the procedure should be conducted in accordance with the regulations of the Competent Authority (see point 11 of Article 7.7.6.).

Yes, the OIE Standard for Stray Dog Population Control actually has an entire section on how to euthanise unwanted stray dogs. I won’t post the section because it is a rather long section, but you can read it in the OIE Standard link above.

No rabies eradication program today will use a cull as a primary strategy to eradicate rabies. However, that doesn’t mean that a cull has no place in a rabies eradication program. Even the WHO states this in their Dog Rabies Control page :

However, the targeted and humane removal of unvaccinated, ownerless dogs may be effective when used as a supplementary measure to mass vaccination.

All these standards, however, are predicated on the availability of rabies vaccines for mass vaccinations to be performed. In the case of the 2015 Malaysian rabies outbreak, mass vaccination was not a viable option, due to a lack of vaccines.

 

Claim #3 : Culling Will Only Increase Rabies

Verdict : False

Details : It has been hypothesised that culling will increase the incidence of rabies due to “continual translocation of dogs with people”. In other words, rabid dogs roam and can migrate into areas left empty by a cull. However, this is only a HYPOTHESIS.

The 2013 study “Evidence-based control of canine rabies: a critical review of population density reduction” even quotes an example :

For example, within a few days of a village-wide cull in Kelusa, Bali, where rabies had not occurred previously, two residents brought in unvaccinated, potentially infected puppies from outside the village to replace their culled, vaccinated adult dogs.

The study also proposed other compensatory mechanisms that reduce the effectiveness of a cull on rabies eradication :

These include concomitant reductions in mortality from reduced competition for food (although the actual intensity of competition in free-roaming dogs is unknown), reductions in the dumping of surplus puppies/unwanted dogs and improved care of dogs. To address these issues, we are currently investigating the effects of human behaviour in response to culling on dog population dynamics and disease transmission

I added the last sentence to point out that these are still hypotheses, not scientific fact.

 

Claim #4 : I Failed To Address Why Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng Announced The Cull

Verdict : False

Details : In the section “Culling Dogs Is The Best Way To Control Rabies“, I already mentioned why Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced the cull :

As Lim Guan Eng himself pointed out, he made the decision based on the recommendation of the veterinary and health authorities.

 

Claim #5 : Datuk Mohamad Radzuan Malek Did Not Advise Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng To Cull All Of The Homeless Dogs In Penang

Verdict : False

Details : In the same section “Culling Dogs Is The Best Way To Control Rabies“, I quoted Datuk Mohamad Radzuan Malek recommending the cull of wild dogs :

In fact, Malaysian Veterinary Services Department Enforcement Division director, Datuk Mohamed Radzuan Malek, said :

If the wild dogs are not controlled, and culled, the rabies epidemic will not be truly controlled and can spread. More importantly, if it spreads to a dog with an owner, the risks of infection is very high.

 

Claim #6 : I Proudly Justified The Cull Of All Stray Dogs Because There Are No Vaccines

Verdict : False

Details : In the section “There Is Logic Behind The “Madness”“, I pointed out that a properly-executed cull would only occur in areas where cases of rabies have been reported. A targeted cull, in other words. The same targeted cull that was mentioned by the WHO :

However, the targeted and humane removal of unvaccinated, ownerless dogs may be effective when used as a supplementary measure to mass vaccination.

I have never once advocated or justified the cull of all stray dogs, whether there are vaccines available or otherwise.

 

Claim #7 : I Chose Not To Mention That The Chief Minister Refused To Work With The NGOs From The 17th-19th Of September

Verdict : False

Details : I can only base my article on what was reported in the media, preferably from more than one source. I, for example, cannot verify Kenneth’s claim that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng “order [sic] the guard to close down the grill door to prevent the NGO’s [sic] from entering the administrative office to hand over the memorandum” on the 18th of September.

This video shows the MPPP office partially shuttered against the protest, but there is no way to know who ordered the closure of the office to the protestors. The same video also shows people going about their business within, and even entering the MPPP office.

It appears that only the protestors were forbidden from entering. News reports also indicate that the NGOs at the protest did in fact hand over a memorandum to the Penang Chief Minister’s Office.

Just now we have sent the memorandum to the Penang Chief Minister office. We will be giving Penang State Government for 24 hours to respond about the issues due to it was totally urgent. Not sure how many dog have been killed at outside when we are here. If after 24 hours Penang State Government did not give any respond, we will find our own way to solve the issues,” said Committee Members of Stop The Killing Group Dalbinder Singh Gill. | Credit : PocketNews

My article actually discussed the false claim that the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng refused to talk to the NGOs. I never addressed the issue of whether they were working together or not, because that was not a claim I encountered when I wrote the article. Neither can I post every single instance of Lim Guan Eng talking to NGOs. I could have posted this conversation between an NGO and Lim Guan Eng on the 19th of September, for instance :

Some Dog Lovers Are Not Above Lying

The fact that I did not post the conversation above is not an indication of a cover up of the fact that Lim Guan Eng was talking to the NGOs even on the 19th of September. Obviously, Kenneth Fong’s claim that “After being pressure only then agree to talk to the NGO’s on Sunday 20th Sept 2015” is categorically false.

 

Claim #8 : I Falsely Made Up The Figure Of 30 Rabies Infections By The 21st Of September

Verdict : False

Details : On the 21st of September, Penang Health Director Dr. Zailan Adnan confirmed the 3rd case of rabies in Penang. In this Straits Times report :

Veterinary Services Department deputy director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said the first case in Perlis was on Aug 19, with 22 victims in total so far.Five people were bitten by stray dogs in Kedah since Sept 13 and infected, he said.

In short, Penang (3) + Perlis (22) + Kedah (5) = 30. Higher numbers were reported. ChannelNewsAsia and Astro Awani both reported on the 21st of September that there were 39 cases by the 18th of September. ChannelNewsAsia then updated the article the next day, quoting one Sumisha Naidu :

As of today, 21 dogs showing clinical signs out of 42 that tested positive; 2,257 dogs put down; 2,433 vaccinated; 82 people bitten

 

Claim #9 : The Director General of Health Confirmed That No Human Being Has Been Tested Positive For Rabies

Verdict : Technically True

Details : As I pointed out in the section “But Didn’t The Health Minister Say That No One Was Infected With Rabies?“, Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S Subramaniam also said that there were “no confirmed cases of rabies in humans so far“.

Technically, that soundbite is correct because all of the victims were treated before they became symptomatic, but it is not accurate, because there is no antemortem test for rabies.

The only definitive test involves euthanising the infected animal and removing its brain to inspect for the presence of Negri bodies, or to perform the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). Because it would be criminal (heh!) to kill a human being to test his/her brains for rabies, there is no way to know for sure if any human victims were infected with rabies.

The diagnosis of human victims is usually based on any symptoms they may exhibit, or the inspection of the dogs that bit them. If the dog that bit a victim is found to have rabies, then it is assumed that the victim is infected with rabies. The victim would be prophylactically treated with the rabies vaccine.

 

Claim #10 : WHO States That Culling Will Spread Rabies

Verdict : False

Details : The WHO has never said that culling will spread rabies. The WHO has only stated that culling is ineffective in eradicating rabies. In fact, the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) has an entire section on how to euthanise unwanted stray dogs. They wouldn’t do that if culling will spread rabies.

I have also pointed out earlier that the idea that culling will spread rabies is a hypothesis, not a scientific fact.

 

Claim #11 : Culling Does Not Work

Verdict : Arguably false in this case

Details : Although culling has been shown to be ineffective on its own, a targeted cull can blunt or even stop an outbreak in a non-endemic area.

In fact, the lack of new cases since the 22nd of September would actually vindicate proponents of the cull. After all – no mass vaccination drive was carried out due to the lack of the rabies vaccine. Therefore, the cull probably arrested the outbreak in the tristate area.

 

Claim #12 : Vaccination Is The Way To Go

Verdict : I cannot agree more

Details : As I pointed time and time again, vaccination is the way to go… the gold standard for rabies eradication.

However, it is asinine to keep harping on a mass vaccination drive when there are no vaccines available to vaccinate pet dogs, much less the strays. That would be like insisting on driving a car when it has no petrol. You may make a lot of noise, but you won’t be going anywhere.

 

Being A Dog Lover Does Not Give You The Right To Lie

Overly emotional dog lovers like Kenneth Fong always take things too personally to do the right thing, even for the dogs they claim to love so much.

Rabies is fatal not just to humans, but also the dogs who get infected. Therefore, when there is an outbreak, the most important thing for both man and canine is to stop the outbreak as soon as possible. The longer the outbreak carries on, the more dogs (and potentially humans) will die.

Genuine dog lovers should not only be concerned about a cull, but about saving the most dogs from certain death. If a targeted cull of a thousand dogs is necessary to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of other dogs, that may be a bargain worth taking. This case is a great example of how we can’t always have our cake and eat it too.

I can understand why Kenneth Fong and his ilk are not above lying and fudging the facts. I just don’t agree with them. The truth is powerful enough. If you need to lie, it only shows how little faith you have in your own facts.

Please help to stop the spread of lies and misinformation by these dishonest dog lovers. Share this article out!

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3 Comments

  1. Li lian

    Hi Adrian Wing, very good points you made. On the issue of vaccine availability I would agree, no vaccines = no vaccination.

    FYI Malaysia is a member of the OIE that maintains an emergency rabies vaccine bank that deploys vaccines within 1-2 weeks. We only wish the government had made an honest effort to procure these vaccines when rabies was first reported in Jul this year then we wouldn’t be in this pickle now.

    Also OIE’s whole section on euthanisation is for the purpose of dog population control. That section doesn’t exist purely as a containment measure for rabies. And it must be pointed out that dog population control and rabies containment are 2 separate issues that should not be confused with one another (not saying you are confused, but many do tend to lump the two together)

    If you check OIE website you will also find that Malaysia reported one rabies case to OIE only. In that report Malaysia lists it’s rabies containment measures. No where does it say that we are doing targeted culling, let alone mass killing of dogs, when it is quite clear that the whole rabies containment strategy here in Malaysia is predicated on mass killing. I wonder why that is.

    You could argue that the culling has worked, or you could argue that the killing in Perlis and Kedah was what spread rabies over to Penang so quickly in the first place. However you want to put it, the fact is that without any serious data to enable a thorough investigation, it’s a waste of time talking on this matter. In fact one could also argue that rabies does not spread this quickly and we could have been living with low level rabies all this while. This is why we hope that we could be provided with better quality data so we are better able to investigate this episode to glean important info as to how rabies got to Malaysia in the first place, how it spread so quickly to Penang and how it stopped so abruptly.

    I must say that the CM’s leadership and decisiveness on this matter be praised, it was not an easy thing to do. He bravely announced his decision and faced the public outcry.

    On the other hand putting the onus onto the NGOs to push for mass vaccination, educate the public on rabies, putting the responsibility to the NGOs to convince dvs on the mass vaccination method on their behalf, not taking active measures towards public education, publicising dog bite cases, is something I am less proud of.

    I suppose the only explanation is that he is unaware that mass vaccination is the gold standard in rabies elimination from a human health point of view, if not I believe he would have pushed for mass vaccination early on instead of mass killing. And in my humble opinion this is no fault of his.

    Seeing that rabies is first and foremost a public health concern, the effort to find the best way to deal with this should be spearheaded by the authorities instead of left to the NGOs who by the way are already stretched thin with the usual work of rescuing, spaying and rehoming the strays.

    Nonetheless we are extremely glad and grateful that the state chose to meet, listen and in our opinion, take steps in the right direction. I’ll not go into detail here on the time frame of what happened because after all, what purpose will that serve?

    Lastly if I may, in defence of those who dared to question the mass killing order, I do believe that most will choose human health over animal welfare. In fact, that was never the issue. The issue has always been why undertake mass killing of all dogs found on the streets when as you mentioned, mass vaccination + targeted culling could have been used instead.

    Going forward I believe our interests are all aligned, getting the vaccines in and implementing a successful and sustained mass vaccination campaign. After knowing what I know now about rabies I could not rest well until this campaign is well underway.

    Thank you for providing this opportunity to have a respectable dialogue.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Adrian Wong

      Hi Li Lian,

      I think the obsession of these “dog lovers” with the dog cull and LGE’s role in that masks the mistake the DVS made in not procuring the vaccines when rabies was first detected. As you pointed out, if they procured the vaccines then, then we wouldn’t be in this pickle.

      Correct. Euthanasia is never meant to be a containment measure for rabies, at least not alone. It’s been proven to be not very effective but I suppose, if there are no vaccines and insufficient quarantine facilities, a cull ends up being the only choice left.

      Even if we have vaccines, there is still a place for euthanasia. At the very least, to the ease the suffering of infected dogs. Some of these dog lovers actually wanted infected dogs to be quarantined instead and allowed to “die in dignity”…

      Well, I really don’t know if they are doing a targeted cull or a mass cull. I can only say that a mass cull is a waste of time and resources, and of course, the lives of stray dogs. Perhaps a mass cull was instituted. Perhaps the dogcatchers ignored orders and just went for any dog they could find because they were being financially rewarded for the work. I certainly saw 2-3 cases posted on Facebook. However, I don’t think we can say for sure that it was a mass cull. I certainly have no data or information to conclusively support or refute the claim.

      Yes, many of those who railed against LGE ignored the fact that he was the only one who actually announced the cull publicly. If he chose to be less transparent, the same NGOs and dog lovers who are now ranting about the cull would probably not find out until much, much later, if at all.

      Even when it was revealed that Kedah and Perlis were already culling stray dogs weeks earlier, they still chose to demonise only him. That’s why I called it a political attack. If what he did was morally wrong, then they should condemn Dato’ Seri Azlan Man of Perlis and Mukhriz Mahathir of Kedah for approving the culls in their respective states.

      Well, the onus should not be on the NGOs, but the DVS, to vaccinate the strays in the border states to create and maintain the rabies immune belt. I would rather count on the NGOs to educate the public on being responsible pet owners, and helping to desex and rehome strays.

      Even if LGE was aware that vaccination is the gold standard, his hands were probably tied by the fact that there were no vaccines available for pets, much less the strays. If he didn’t allow the cull, and more people get “diagnosed” with rabies, he will be held responsible for not taking action. Instead of dog lovers screaming at him, he will have Penangnites accusing him of putting canine lives above human lives.

      That’s why I keep telling people like Kenneth Fong and Komathi Somasanderam that he has no choice but to follow the advice of the DVS. He’s not a veterinarian, so he has to rely on the experts in the DVS to advise him on the best measure to take. If he countermands them, he will be seen as thinking he’s smarter than the experts.

      I agree that dealing with the rabies outbreak must be the responsibility of the authorities. I certainly hope they learned their lesson.

      Again, I really can’t say one way or another whether there was mass killing, or targeted killing that accidentally involved tagged (and vaccinated) dogs… The statistics do show that many of the dogs killed were not infected, but there is no way for dogcatchers to know if they were infected or not.

      In fact, the rather long incubation period would mean that an infected dog may remain asymptomatic. That’s why even a targeted cull will involve killing dogs that appear to be healthy. The targeting, in this sense, would mean focusing on a geographical area with known rabies cases. Similar, in a way, to the quarantine of a village in an Ebola outbreak.

      BTW there are quite a few who believe that it’s okay to let rabid dogs bite humans because they can always get treated. There are also people who think that it’s not easy for humans to get infected even if they are bitten by a rabid dog, probably because of the newspaper reports that no humans have been diagnosed with rabies. That’s why I wrote three articles on this issue.

      Yes, I think everyone’s interests are actually aligned. Even those who are said to be “pro-culling” are not interested in simply killing strays because they are strays. They just want to put human lives first and foremost, especially when it was revealed that a child was bitten by a rabid dog. I think too many people have gotten too emotional over this issue.

      That is exactly it. Instead of cursing each other online, we should concentrate on “encouraging” the federal government to expedite the importation of the rabies vaccine, particularly the free vaccines being offered by the WVS. We should also lean on them to cut the red tape so WVS can come in and help implement the mass vaccination campaign.

      Vaccination is the way to go. Our focus must be on getting the vaccines in, and the dogs vaccinated ASAP.

      Thank you for writing in! 😀

      Reply
  2. Robert Johnston

    I think it’s a shame they stopped culling the Strays. It really helped where I live in Penang. We had at least 30 plus dogs hanging around the condo causing problems. I think a lot of these so called dog lovers are not runners, walker or bikers (they drive their cars from A to B). These dogs do get aggressive and cause problems.

    I grew up with dogs and know about them. I find it ridiculous to give stray dogs the right to roam freely around. Dogs can be aggressive and can attack.

    I personally don’t want to be growled at, chased, have my child frightened when bloody just taking a walk to the shops. I don’t want to listen to howling at night, I don’t want the chance of me or anyone I love being bitten!

    Good Job Penang Government on the culling!! Hopefully the do it next year.

    Reply

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