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Beijing calls on dog owners to help fight rabies

By Cao Yin and Li Yao  (China Daily)

11:29, September 24, 2011

A man takes his dog for a spin on the back of a motorized tricycle in a Beijing street last month. The city plans to strengthen management of dogs in the future in an effort to combat the spread of rabies, which can be fatal if it is not treated in time. (Provided to China Daily)

BEIJING - The city government called on residents to register their dogs on time and keep better control of them to fight the increasing number of rabies cases during a discussion of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress on Friday.

"As the number of dogs in the city rises, the number of dog bites is also going up," said Lei Decai, director of the rural affairs committee of the people's congress.

Last year, more than 30,000 residents were bitten by dogs and nine died of rabies. As of June this year, six people have died of rabies, Lei said.

"The main problem lies in the registration of dogs," he said, adding that the number of unlicensed dogs in the city is unknown.

At the beginning of June, eight residents were attacked by dogs in Beijing's Olympic Forest Park.

One of them, Zhao Haiyan, 56, a retiree, was bitten in her left leg as she walked in the park. The puncture wounds left her leg bleeding.

"An officer in the park brought me to a hospital to get vaccinated for rabies, and I had no idea who I could ask for compensation, because the dog was fed by workers in a construction site and had no registration," she told China Daily.

"Now I worry when I see an unleashed dog," she added.

Zhao is not alone. Cao Lifang, also 56, has helped a friend care for a dog since February. Dabai, a 6-year-old male Samoyed, bit her in mid-June when she was trying to keep him from fighting another dog.

The attack left a deep bite mark on Cao's left hand, and she had to take anti-rabies injections for more than a month.

Yu Qi, the doctor at a health service center in Yayuncun community who treated Zhao, said people bitten by dogs must get anti-rabies injections, because without them they could become seriously ill and possibly die.

"Nowadays, many people have dogs in their homes and play with them. These dogs may be pets, but they still have the potential to attack people," he said.

There are about 950,000 registered dogs in Beijing, but at least an additional 1 million dogs in the city are unregistered, according to Liu Weilin, deputy secretary-general of the congress' standing committee.

"The unlicensed dogs pose a huge potential danger to residents," he said. "Aside from rabies, dog illnesses can infect people, and their feces pollutes the environment."

"More awareness-raising programs should be organized to advocate a safe and healthy pet ownership. Unfortunately, it is common to see unleashed dogs running in the streets," said Wang Lin, a member of the standing committee of the congress.

Pet bites and scratches are particularly dangerous for pregnant women because they can lead to a miscarriage, Wang added.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories and kills 55,000 people a year.

Wednesday has been designated World Rabies Day.

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