Animal rights activist Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山) began a sit-in demonstration inside a dog cage in front of the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday to protest against the increased capturing of stray animals in the name of rabies prevention.
“Fake disease prevention, real slaughtering,” said Huang, founder of the Taiwan People’s Association for Cats and Dogs, criticizing the council for not providing enough vaccines to innoculate pets and allowing local governments to capture an excessive number of stray cats and dogs — sometimes abusively — which he said was damaging the disease prevention system.
Holding a photograph of a puppy that was reportedly killed during one of the dog-catching initiatives, Huang said he would sit in the cage until Friday afternoon, when animal rights supporters from across the nation are to hold a large-scale demonstration in front of the council for the same cause.
Although the council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine has repeatedly urged pet owners to take their cats and dogs to get vaccinated and not simply abandon them, as well as announced an increase in vaccinations of strays, it said it would respect local governments’ decisions on how to deal with stray animals in their jurisdictions.
Huang and other activists have urged the council to instruct local governments to stop employing the catch-and-destroy method as a rabies prevention measure, provide animal protection groups with vaccines to inoculate stray animals and to prohibit the capture of strays bearing tags indicating that they have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, health authorities yesterday said that another four wild Formosan ferret-badgers have tested positive for rabies, bringing the number of confirmed animal infections to 40 since the outbreak was detected last month.
The four ferret-badgers were among a group of 14 dead animals tested on Sunday, the Central Epidemic Command Center for Rabies said.
The infected animals were found in Greater Taichung’s Dongshi District (東勢), Nantou County’s Puli Township (埔里), Yunlin County’s Gukeng Township (古坑) and Taitung County’s Haiduan Township (海端), the center said.
These were the first infections confirmed in Dongshi and Haiduan, putting the two places on the list of rabies-affected areas, the center said. As of Sunday, all of the confirmed cases have been in Formosan ferret-badgers, with the exception of one Asian house shrew.
The virus has now been detected in 28 districts and townships in seven cities and counties across central and southern Taiwan, the center said.
Meanwhile, the preliminary results of a DNA sequence analysis yesterday showed that there is a high probability that the rabies virus was imported from China, with similarities in nucleoprotein sequencing ranging from between 87.7 percent and 91.3 percent.
Scientists said the virus appeared to have been in Taiwan for “a while,” but that the sequencing could not determine how long.
Additional reporting by Staff writer, with CNA