Press Release
December 19, 2006


A proposed bill that seeks to remove the Philippines from the infamous list of countries in the world with the highest rabies death cases and transform it into a "rabies-free" country by the year 2020 is now nearing approval by the Senate.

Known as the "National Anti-Rabies Bill," Senate Bill 2541 sponsored by Sen. Pia S. Cayetano has passed second reading on Monday night, and is expected to be approved on third reading by Thursday.

The bill pursues a multi-pronged approach to eradicate rabies, including the mass vaccination of dogs, impounding of stray dogs, establishment of a database for registered and immunized dogs, launching of an information campaign on rabies prevention and control, and the practice of responsible dog ownership.

"An anti-rabies shot will cost only P10 per dog, which is really a small amount considering that the country stands to reverse its reputation as a rabies 'hotspot' and safeguard the health of its people, as well as the dog population itself," said Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

The measure makes it mandatory for dog owners to register their pets with their local government unit and have these immunized regularly. Local dog pounds will also be established in cities and municipalities to house stray and unvaccinated dogs. Veterinary offices will likewise be established in each LGU to ensure the implementation of the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program in every locality.

SBN 2541 further institutes measures to rein in the dog population and minimize the number of unwanted stray dogs through "spaying" (removal of reproductive organs in the case of female dogs) or "neutering" (removal of testicles for male dogs).

Rabies is an acute viral sickness transmitted through the bites of rabid dogs and other animals that is almost always fatal once it completely ravages the central nervous system. The Philippines currently ranks sixth in the world in terms of rabies deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2005 alone 271 persons died from rabies, according to the health department. They are part of the 115,223 people all over the country who were victims of dog bites. This translates to around 316 individuals bitten by a dog every dayor 13 victims every hour in 2005. The number may even be bigger considering that many people who get bitten by dogs fail to seek treatment because of the high cost entailed, ranging from P5,000 to P30,000.

The Philippines gained further notoriety recently after a Japanese national who had been infected with rabies from a dog bite in the Philippines, died in a hospital in Kyoto last November 17 becoming Japan's first victim of rabies in 36 years. This prompted Japan's health ministry to issue a travel warning to Japanese tourists to stay away from dogs while in the Philippines.

"Many countries have successfully controlled, if not virtually eradicated rabies through the mandatory vaccination of their dog population, combined with other measures. The passage of this much-needed legislation provides us the keyand the cureto conquering this ancient scourge."

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