Center suspends rabies dog experiment pending more discussions with experts

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - Page 3

Additional consultations with local and foreign experts will be held before any animal testing is conducted to research the rabies outbreak, the Central Epidemic Command Center said yesterday.

Outraged by the announcement that the Animal Health Research Institute is to conduct experiments on 14 beagles that involve infecting the dogs with a strain of the virus, animal protection groups and veterinarians have been voicing their opposition to the tests, which they say would not yield any useful information.

Faced with accusations that it is sanctioning the needless violation of animal rights, the authorities seem to have backed down, saying that the experiment will not be undertaken until further discussions on their necessity are completed.

When asked when the experiment would be done, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine official Liao Mei-hui (廖美慧) said that no date had been set.

“We just want to find out if the rabies strain that has infected Formosan ferret-badgers recently also affects dogs so that more effective, targeted preventive measures can be devised,” Liao said.

No date has been set either for a final decision on whether to conduct the experiment, Liao added.

Liao said that since the proposal caused such a public uproar, “we are going to go over the plan again with the specialists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” who arrived in Taipei earlier this month.

If the experiment is conducted, the “three R’s” of animal testing procedures — reduction, refinement and replacement — will be rigorously followed to ensure the procedure is thoroughly deliberated, the center said.

According to the center, two more ferret-badgers were confirmed to be infected with rabies over the weekend, bringing the total number of known infections to 90, all but one of which were ferret-badgers.