Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山), a “loving-heart” father of stray dogs and cats, is leading a protest at the Council of Agriculture (COA) on Friday.
“The problem right now is that the COA is scrambling to figure out what to do about the rabies situation and contradicting itself in the process. It’s telling us to inoculate the pets, yet it won’t supply the vaccines,” Huang told the Taipei Times.
“People are going from vet to vet with their pets in tow but nobody can do a thing for them,” he said.
Last weekend, many Taipei City animal hospitals confirmed that they are short on supplies. As of press time, only one out of 10 clinics surveyed can still offer shots: Mingde Animal Hospital (明德動物醫院). The other nine are waiting on privately placed orders, which they expect to arrive in late August or September.
Try the shelter
Until then, a better bet is an unlikely place, one where no dog has willingly gone before. At many kill shelters across Taiwan, in-house veterinarians are offering rabies vaccination to local domestic animals.
The Taipei Animal Shelter (台北市動物之家) in Neihu has administered shots to 150 to 200 pets daily since July 16, according to division chief Sun Hsu-ming (孫旭明).
“There’s no trouble yet dealing with the demand. We’re not running low because we placed some orders on day one of the outbreak, and we’ve also had 500 free doses come in from the COA,” Sun said, adding that the central government has sent about 6,000 doses in total to shelters across Taiwan.
The COA has about 40,000 doses remaining, set to be gradually rationed out to local disease control departments, according to the council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ, 防疫局).
As a result, some disease control departments may also be able to offer vaccinations unavailable in the private sector.
Try the train station
When available, a rabies vaccine costs between NT$200 and NT$1,000. In high-risk cities and counties, some disease control units have begun offering them at below cost.
In Changhua County, which sits by the outbreak’s epicenter, a traveling clinic stops at the Tianzhong Train Station (田中車站) today and at 24 other locations between now and Nov. 29. The clinic offers rabies vaccination for free and microchipping at NT$300 per pet. The complete itinerary is available at the Animal Disease Control Center Web site (Chinese): www.chcgadcc.gov.tw.
The Animal and Plant Disease Control Center in Yunlin County, which has two confirmed cases, offers free vaccines in red-zone Gukeng (古坑) and inexpensive vaccines to lower-risk areas. For details, call the control center at (05) 552-3250.
Limited free or inexpensive (under NT$100) vaccines are also available in Hualien, Taoyuan, Greater Taichung, Hsinchu and other cities and counties. Contact the disease control unit in your region for more information.
In Taitung County, where rabies has been confirmed in eight ferret-badgers and an Asian house shrew, vaccines have been reserved nearly exclusively for pets.
Contrary to reports that the county is inoculating the stray dog population, this is not yet the case, according Agriculture Department Director Wu Ching-jung (吳慶榮).
“We haven’t been pushing catch and release. For us, the first move is to protect the people, which means we protect the animals closest to them,” Wu told the Taipei Times.