Press Release
September 24, 2006

13 dog bite victims every hour in RP
Cayetano: "Anti-rabies legislation urgently needed"

Some 115,223 Filipinos all over the country were victims of dog bites last year. This translates to around 316 individuals bitten by a dog every dayor 13 victims every hour in 2005.

"Each one of us has an anecdote to tell about being terrorized, chased, or even bitten, by a neighbor's dog," according to Sen. Pia S. Cayetano. "But these grim figures are certainly not amusing and should be a cause for concern."

Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, noted that the Philippines actually ranks sixth in the world in terms of rabies deaths, which claims between 300 to 400 lives in the country annually.

"Even more disturbing is the fact that in six of every ten cases, rabies deaths involve children victims below fifteen years old," she stressed. "What all these figures underscore is the need to legislate a national anti-rabies program."

Cayetano's committee is currently hearing and is expected to approve soon House Bill No.4654 and Senate Bills 631 (Sen. Villar) and 1899 (Sen. Flavier), which seek to establish a National Rabies Prevention and Control Program.

The measures make it mandatory for dog owners to have their pets immunized against rabies and registered with their local government unit. The proposals also mandate the establishment of local dog pounds which will house stray and unvaccinated dogs.

An owner who fails or refuses to have his/her dog immunized will be fined P500 or jailed for one day. Those who refuse to have their pets vaccinated against rabies shall be liable to pay for the vaccination of both animal and the individual/s bitten by their dog.

According to the Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture, the government needs to allocate P80 million to cover the cost of vaccinating all dogs in the countryat a cost of P10 per dog and with an estimated dog population of 8 million.

"The amount is well worth it, because it will definitely cost more to spend on anti-rabies vaccines," Cayetano said. She noted that while it only costs P10 to have a dog immunized, the cost of having anti-rabies shots for a dog bite victim could range between P5,000 to P30,000.

The senator also dismissed the notion that the problem is more prevalent in poor communities than in middle-class or high-income villages and subdivisions.

"As a runner and biker, I've had so many experiences being chased by a dog even in exclusive subdivisions," she said. She attributed this to the failure of some homeowners' associations to strictly enforce regulations on dog owners, or that said regulations may be nonexistent at all.

She concluded by saying that the key to any effective rabies control program lies not merely in having full control of dogs, but in educating people on how to become responsible pet owners.

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