Health Ministry also says it’s recommeding a zero-stray dog policy in all rabies areas. (NSTP Archive)

IPOH: “If you can’t take care of your dog, don’t own one.”

These were the words of Deputy Health Minister, Dr Lee Boon Chye on irresponsible owners who refused to get their dogs vaccinated and later dump them when they fall sick.

He added their failure to look after the welfare of their dogs is unbecoming.

“I don’t think the price of vaccine is an issue. I believe the amount they pay to feed the dog in one year is much more than the RM100 paid to get it vaccinated. To me, they are just being irresponsible.”

“Ownership and love come with responsibility. You can’t say you love your dog, but not willing to be a responsible owner,” he added.

Dr Lee said dog owners should ensure that their dogs are vaccinated and do not roam around, to prevent the spread of rabies infection.

He added rabies is a serious disease and the fatality rate is almost 100 per cent.

According to Dr Lee, following the growing number of stray dogs on the streets, the Health Ministry is recommending a zero stray dog policy at all rabies-gazetted areas in efforts to control the disease from spreading.

“The policy does not mean that the ministry encourages the killing of wild dogs as there are procedures to be followed.

“We want to make sure that the owners take care of their dogs and do not let them roam around. If no one is taking care of the dogs, there must be a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to adopt them, failing which, the dogs will be put to sleep,” he added.

Dr Lee said Malaysia would not be the first country to implement the zero stray dog policy as the Netherlands and Japan had done it already.

“If we visit these countries, we hardly see stray dogs roaming around. The dogs are always with their owners.

“Before we implement this policy, we must have proper procedures in place. This means making sure the dogs have no owners,” he said.

Dr Lee added dogs must be monitored for signs of rabies for two weeks, before they were given away for adoption.

“If there are signs of infection after two weeks, the NGO may continue taking care of the dog and get it vaccinated once a year,” he said.

On whether the policy should be implemented in areas where there were no rabies infection, Dr Lee said that was beyond the Health Ministry’s jurisdiction.

“When there is no infectious disease, it is not up to the Health Ministry to decide whether to implement this policy or not. That depends on the Veterinary Services Department and the local authority. They will decide whether to implement it or not.