No free-roaming dog country – The Philippines is envisioned to emulate Japan in maintaining an environment free of stray dogs and rabies virus, explained RITM Molecular Biology Laboratory Head and rabies researcher Dr. Timothy John Dizon in the latest End Rabies with Fumiya episode with Japanese influencer Fumiya Sankai last October 3, 2022.
In Japan where Sankai is based, stray dogs are a rare sight as strict dog-keeping rules are put in place by the Japanese government. In contrast, animal homelessness in the Philippines has become a critical issue as raised by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In fact, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) estimated that there are 12 million stray dogs and cats in the country in 2019. Aside from this, 99% of the recorded human rabies deaths are attributed to dogs. If the population of stray dogs in the country will not be controlled, the risk for both humans and dogs to contract rabies infection will increase.
“Stray dogs primarily transmit the rabies virus. Most of [these stray dogs] are pet dogs and have owners…if most Filipino pet owners do not allow their dogs to roam free, we can protect both humans and dogs,” said Dr. Dizon.
In the episode, Dr. Dizon once again challenged Sankai to interview some of the Filipinos in Japan about their insights on having no stray dogs in Japan.
“I’m really happy there [are] no stray dogs here in Japan because I could see that the (Japanese) government and the rest of the residents in Japan are doing their best to protect these dogs,” said Sakura, a Filipino college student who has been residing in Japan for three months.
“I’m afraid that sometimes stray dogs in the Philippines might get hurt in the street and they don’t get to be taken care of,” shared Xan, another Filipino who has been in Japan for two weeks.
The Japanese government mandates its citizens who are dog owners to follow dog-keeping regulations. The following are a few of the regulations dog-owners in Japan must adhere to:
- Dogs must be kept on a leash while being walked outdoors. Dogs may be kept off-leash if within indoors or a fenced property of its owner.
- When walking a dog, the dog’s leash must be short enough for the safety of both the dog and its owner.
- Dogs should be trained by their owners to become “socially acceptable”. Dog-owners in Japan are encouraged to train their dogs to respond to commands such as “stay” and “come”.
- Dog owners should be able to maintain a clean and conducive environment for their dogs by ensuring that their dogs’ barking, hairs, and odors are controlled.
- Dog owners should understand the personality and nature of their dogs to avoid figuring in accidents.
- The Rabies Prevention Act of Japan mandates dog owners to register their dogs that are over 90 days old for anti-rabies immunization. The said law also mandates an injection certificate and license tag for dogs.
Meanwhile, the following are some of the regulations and practices in place in the Philippines for the control and management of stray dogs as per Republic Act No. 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007:
- Local government units (LGUs) should strictly implement field control and dog impounding activities.
- Cities and first class municipalities in the Philippines are mandated by law to establish and maintain dog pounds for impounding.
- LGUs should enforce selective elimination of captured stray dogs.
- Local Rabies Prevention and Control Committees should be organized or reestablished for strict monitoring and surveillance of dog movements especially those of stray dogs.
“Pakiusap sa lahat ng pet owners sa Philippines, we know that we love your pets, so please do not allow them to roam freely. And when you’re outside, dapat nakatali sila. Don’t let them out of your house by themselves. This way, we can protect them from rabies,” called on Sankai to Filipino pet owners.
(To all pet owners in the Philippines, we know that we love your pets, so please do not allow them to roam freely. And when you’re outside, make sure that they are on a leash. Don’t let them out of your house by themselves. This way, we can protect them from rabies.)
The End Rabies with Fumiya video series is part of the rabies education initiatives of the JAPOHR Project of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and Oita University of Japan under the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) scheme funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).
by Anel Azel Dimaano, Communication and Engagement Office