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How to stop the spread of rabies

Animal Defenders SXM was very surprised to read that pet owners are advised to vaccinate their dogs against rabies while people are not even vaccinating for distemper. Stopping the transport of pets would be a much simpler approach; no more permits for anyone, something that, at the end of the day, will save lots of lives, tears and money. A simple import and export ban would be an effective approach to protect our pets and us.

Decades we did not have any cases of rabies. In fact rabies is not endemic to this part of the Caribbean. Now suddenly we all need to vaccinate our pets to avoid rabies? Injecting more chemicals into their bodies is not the natural way to go. By the way, if the import ban is indeed already in effect then why would it be necessary to vaccinate?

This idea of vaccinating against rabies is not comforting for a few reasons: look at Canine Distemper; it keeps coming back and flaring up in all areas and still cannot be controlled because many well intended dog lovers on our island cannot afford, or some do not even bother to vaccinate their dogs for K9 distemper. That vaccination also covers the highly contagious Parvo Virus.

If people are not able or willing to vaccinate their pet then they are not responsible enough to have one.

In my opinion the simplest thing our Government could do to protect our animals and our communities is to make sure that the diseases are not imported and exported by not allowing any permits at all. That means zero exceptions until we have gotten all pets registered and all diseases under control.

This will also help the pet overpopulation problem. Animal Defenders SXM is working hard to get stray dogs fixed and vaccinated; we ensure that the dogs are well taken care of. Many so-called "owned" dogs are less fortunate and cannot escape what amounts to gang rape if they are in heat and when their "caretakers" are asleep. People need to be made aware of the importance of spaying the female dogs and neutering the male dogs, yes both need to be fixed; it takes two to tango.

When the dogs are sterilized they will be better guard dogs because they stay home to guard the house instead of following the scent of a female in heat. When a male dog finds the source of the scent he has followed the fighting starts, usually followed by the female being gang raped with the possibility of sexual diseases being passed on or contracted. This concerns stray dogs as well as owned dogs; these animals can come from far and jump or climb all kinds of obstacles. When dogs are fixed the risk for ovarian or prostate cancer and many other contagious diseases are diminished.

Distemper, for example, was reintroduced on our island through the import of puppies from other countries; here also the same simple solution is needed. "Ban the importation of puppies and dogs." Reportedly these laws are in effect but could be adhered to much stricter. These laws were implemented to protect the animals and us against rabies and possibly other diseases brought in from abroad. If indeed this import ban is in effect then why are we requested to still have our dogs vaccinated against rabies?

What's the use of those laws if the government does not ensure that those laws are adhered to? Now we are requested to vaccinate the dogs for rabies while dogs are dying from distemper because people do not bother to vaccinate their pets. Here is where the massive educational part about health and hygiene is needed.

Unless government is willing to send and pay veterinarians to go vaccinate all the poor, forgotten and unfortunate dogs who are chained for life 24x7 and estimating that it would take years to vaccinate and fix all these unregistered dogs, never knowing if all can be done and how many need to be covered, the risk for rabies and distemper outbreaks will always exist. And it is, therefore, that we must approach the issue seriously.

Stop breeding and importing dogs as soon as possible, for the animals' sake, for the community's sake, for all our health and to reduce the pet overpopulation problem.

Animal Defenders SXM is of the opinion that euthanizing healthy pets is not necessary; it has never solved the problem and thus it's not acceptable. It is a matter of ABC Animal Birth Control and a massive education campaign, but again government's help is needed. Prevent the births of unwanted animals; the ones who are here with us already need to be fixed, so that they can live out their natural lives.

St. Maarten is one big happy shelter; thus we do not need a shelter. Building a shelter is too expensive, keep in mind the money needed to acquire a piece of land, construction expenses, then add the monthly water, electricity bills, the salaries, maintenance cost and vet bills; with all that money we can sterilize and vaccinate all the dogs and get the overpopulation under control before a shelter is even built.

If the laws are in effect and adhered to then there are reasons for hope.

For the love of our country, our community and our furry friends, let's become the change that we wish to see in the world.

"Caring for animals is a credible component of providing care to people, because the needs of animals are inevitably linked to the needs of people." – Patricia Forkan

Mercedes De Windt

President Animal Defenders St. Maarten

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