NEEDLING PUPS: Etwatwa residents marked World Rabies Day by getting free shots for their pets. Pictures: Velempini Ndlovu
Furry residents of Etwatwa on the East Rand were on Wednesday dragged kicking and howling to the Chris Hani Sports ground to get free jabs to keep rabies at bay.
This drive was an initiative by the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development to commemorate World Rabies Day.
“We wanted to use this opportunity to get the essential services to those who cannot afford to put the health of their cats and dogs first,” said Dr Malcolm de Bude from the department.
De Bude said 39000 dogs had been vaccinated since April in Gauteng.
Sakhepi “Bobby” Khumba, a resident, said he heard the public announcement inviting the community to bring their pets for vaccination and decided to bring his dog, Bejane, to get his shots.
“Bejane is like a part of my family and protects us especially at night so I must take care of his health,” said Khumba.
Pet owners and vets had their hands full with cats running away and hiding under the parked vehicles and chained dogs trying to get a bite out of each other.
Some residents brought puppies as young as two days old and some even carried their dogs in mielie meal sacks to prevent them running away.
Alice Khumalo took the opportunity to get her two-month-old puppies Rex and Snoopie vaccinated.
“I was not aware that they had to get vaccinated. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get this service for free,” Khumalo said.
Rabies is a highly contagious disease that attacks the nervous systems and brains in all mammals and can be fatal.
Symptoms include behaviour changes, aggressiveness and paralysis. The virus lives in the saliva of rabid animals and is transmitted through their bite.
There is no treatment or cure for rabies. The most affective form of prevention is vaccination. According to South African law all dogs and cats must be inoculated against rabies at least once a year.
“Our intention is to encourage pet owners to vaccinate their animals,” said Magda Lindeque, regional director of Pfizer animal health in SA.
The World Health Organisation says more than 55000 people die of Rabies every year with 95% of human deaths happening in Asia and Africa. Some 40% of people who are bitten by suspected rabid animals are children under 15.
The SA Veterinary Association said 11 cases had been confirmed in the greater Johannesburg area this year.
Rabies deaths in humans in SA are increasing with a record 100 reported in 2006. Children from the local primary school, Dan Pharasi, were also treated to a K-9 show presented by the SAPS dog unit.