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National Campaign Aims to Control Rabies
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Following a warning from China's health ministry highlighting that rabies has become the No 1 infectious disease killer in the country over the past five months a national campaign to promote responsible dog ownership is unfolding. 

At the weekend the capital city of Beijing started a two-month campaign on the enforcement of dog ownership regulations which aims to have all domestic dogs registered and properly inoculated.

The campaign, launched jointly by the public security and health bureaus, has set up hotlines to publicize information on raising dogs and encourages people to report rule violations.

Around 70,000 pet-related injuries have been reported by the city's 45 rabies clinics in the first half of this year, according to the health bureau.

However, in a major step forward Beijing police closed an illegal dog trading market in Tongzhou District over the weekend and confiscated 79 unregistered dogs.

A health watchdog in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, is encouraging owners of both registered and unregistered dogs to have their animals vaccinated by offering subsidies to some of them.

Due to high registration and management fees--as high as 16,000 yuan or US$2,000 for a legal dog identity--only 1,000 of Guangzhou's 50,000 dogs are registered, according to local newspaper New Express.

The city also plans to ensure all dogs have an electronic identity collar so health information can be tracked, according to Chen Zhong, dean of the city's Animal Disease Prevention Institute. To prevent the spread of the disease the city previously ordered that all dogs carrying the rabies virus should be put down.

Local health authorities in Shanghai recently issued a public notice to warn about the rising number of dog-related injuries and called for people to quickly seek medical treatment if bitten.

According to statistics from Shanghai's health bureau 52,503 people were bitten and reported the incidents at the 28 rabies clinics in the city during the first seven months of this year. This is up 18 percent from the same period of 2005.

More urbanites and rural residents are keeping pets as living standards improve but the lack of enforceable dog ownership regulations and negligence of the owners themselves have led to a sharp rise in dog-related injuries, says a recent report from the Ministry of Health.

In the first nine months of 2006 the ministry recorded 2,254 rabies infections. This is up 26.69 percent from the same period last year. Rabies has become the biggest killer among the 23 most infectious diseases including AIDS and hepatitis B for five straight months in China, the report said.

The current campaign has won praise from many people. However, they've stressed the solution truly lay in raising the awareness of dog owners.

"Irresponsible dog-raising has not only disturbed neighborhoods but also neglected the rights of the pets," said Cai Yue, a member of the Beijing Small Animal Protection Association. "Only when every pet owner has a higher awareness and capacity in pet protection can the problem be solved fundamentally."

Developed countries like the United Kingdom assess the income and family circumstances of its citizens before allowing them to raise a pet, Cai observed.

(China Daily October 24, 2006)

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