“Madness” in Karachi rabies response

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2005:

KARACHI, Pakistan–“Karachi mayor
Niamatul-lah Khan is about to go on a rampage,
poisoning 500,000 stray dogs in total disregard
of alternatives presented by the Pakistan Animal
Welfare Society, along with a large number of
doctors, health officials, and Karachi
citizens,” Engineers and Scientists for Animal
Rights founder Syed Rizvi warned on Friday, May
13, 2005, in an e-mail quickly distributed
worldwide by pro-animal newsgroups.
Born and raised in Karachi, Rizvi now
lives in San Jose, California, but maintains
close contact with Pakistani animal advocates.
“The City of Karachi is preparing 500,000
strychnine capsules,” Rizvi charged. “I have
been in constant touch with Mahera Omar of the
Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, who is asking
that e-mails and letters from the international
community be sent to the authorities, asking
them to refrain from this barbaric practice.
“Please e-mail to General Parvez
Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, who is a
dog lover himself,” Rizvi asked. “Some might
have seen his picture in Newsweek recently,
holding his two little dogs close to his heart.”

“The World Society for the Protection of
Animals will fax a letter to the President of
Pakistan on behalf of our 506 member societies in
126 countries to protest this decision, and to
offer WSPA’s services to discuss a more humane
policy,” responded WSPA director general Peter
The intensive exposure of the poisoning plans brought mixed results.
“On the one hand, the city government
has offered cooperation to PAWS in setting up an
Animal Birth Control program in Karachi,” Mahera
Omar and Maheen Zia of the Pakistan Animal
Welfare Society posted to <www.pawspakistan.org>
on June 3. “On the other, it is resolutely
continuing its senseless dog killing. While we
fully intend to take the nazim [mayor] up on his
word, we believe the offer of help is
lip-service, as the May 30 meeting which was
supposed to explore alternative strategies began
with the distribution of flyers announcing the
strategy already decided upon: mass strychnine
poisoning of stray dogs.
“The 3-page handout indicated that
photographs of dead dogs are to be published in
leading newspapers to keep the public informed of
the progress of the campaign,” Omar and Zia
said. “In addition, two million rupees [about
$34,000] have been allocated as rewards for the
most successful poisoners. This is clearly
madness,” Omar and Zia opined.

Warning tied to vaccine issue

Animal Save Movement president Khalid
Mahmood Qureshi, of Multan, warned ANIMAL
PEOPLE on March 18, 2005 that the dog massacre
was coming.
E-mailed Qureshi, “The mayor of Karachi and the
health department have declared that they will
kill dogs in 18 towns,” once suburbs, now
engulfed by the sprawling metropolis. Qureshi
said that the Karachi city government and the
Sind state governments had offered bounties
amounting to about 40ยข per dog.
Qureshi alleged that the dog-killing had
begun in response to a shortage of human
post-exposure vaccine.
ANIMAL PEOPLE consulted many other
sources, but for six weeks all denied that there
was either a vaccine shortage or a dog massacre
underway, other than sporadic poisoning by
aggrieved private individuals.
Indirect confirmation finally came
through a forwarded statement by Infectious
Disease Society of Pakistan president Naseem
Salahuddin, who is also a member of the World
Health Organization Expert Committee on Rabies.
“For nearly seven years the Infectious
Disease Society of Pakistan has advocated that
the National Institutes of Health in Islamabad
should discontinue dispensing the obsolete and
ineffective Semple sheep brain post-exposure
vaccine,” Salahuddin explained. “Public
pressure has finally prevailed.”
On April 8 the official Pakistani
post-exposure rabies vaccination became a tissue
culture vaccine, with a much higher reliability
rating. Conversion to tissue culture
vaccinations had already been underway at some
hospitals for as long as 10 years.
Rumors about a vaccine shortage may have
developed as result of hospitals using up their
stocks of the Semple vaccine before introducing
the alternatives.
Just two major hospitals in Karachi
provide post-exposure vaccination to more than 50
dog bite victims per day, Salahuddin said.
“There is a great need to educate the
general public regarding danger of dog bite, its
relation to the deadly disease, and prevention
of rabies by using proper preventive measures,”
Salahuddin emphasized. “This must be done
regularly through the press, lectures and
handouts. Most doctors [in Pakistan] are
inexperienced and not updated on modern methods.
Wrong advice and improper handling of bite cases
can lead to rabies,” and to public panic,
Salahuddin continued.
“The Infectious Disease Society of
Pakistan plans to hold workshops on rabies
prevention in small towns and rural health
centers,” Salahuddin promised.
“Most importantly,” Salahuddin stated,
“dog bite should be prevented by reducing the
stray dog population. Niamatullah Khan supports
this viewpoint,” Salahuddin said, recommending
a three-point strategy.
“Catch, neuter, vaccinate and release
stray dogs,” Salaheddin urged as one essential
element. “Neutered animals not only are likely
to be less aggressive, but will not multiply.
“Encourage people to own stray or pet
dogs,” Salaheddin added. “Vaccinate them and
keep a vaccination record. Rogue dogs should be
killed, as they pose the greatest danger to the
human population,” Salaheddin concluded, making
clear that he meant only dogs who have threatened
or attacked people and other animals.
“Killing dogs randomly has never been
proved to be successful in any country,”
Salaheddin reminded, citing the success of
Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia in using a
similar strategy to “successfully reduce their
numbers of dog bites and rabies cases to very low
But only three days later, Dawn, the
leading English daily newspaper in Pakistan,
announced that Niamatullah Khan had “decided to
launch a major campaign” against homeless dogs,
to “continue until their total elimination.”
In all likelihood “total elimination”
cannot be achieved due to the abundance of refuse
and rats in Pakistani streets. Dogs may become
less visible for a time, but will rapidly breed
back up to the high carrying capacity of the
habitat within a year or less, as after previous
poisoning and shooting campaigns.
“The nazim directed the Department of
Health to take concrete measures for providing
the required number of [poison] capsules for
killing stray dogs,” Dawn reported, “strongly
instructing that they should not fall short, as
in the past.”
Acknowledged Salahuddin, “Mahera Omar
[of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society] suggested more humane methods, such as ABC or
vaccinating stray dogs. This is highly
impractical, given that we have no vets in the
government sector to carry this out.
“People of Karachi do not want to see
dead dogs, but neither do we physicicans want to
see horrible cases of dog bites and rabies. We
have a duty to save our people first,”
Salaheddin said.

“Colored water”

“The rabies situation in Pakistan is a
total disaster, as bad as the worst I saw in
West Africa decades ago,” offered Henry Wilde,
M.D., director of the Queen Saovabha Memorial
Institute in Bangkok, established in 1921 as a
rabies prevention and treatment facility, now
involved in fighting many other viral diseases.
Wilde has visited Pakistan three times to
lecture and investigate rabies outbreaks, he
told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “They have been using Semple
vaccine made locally for years, which my staff
and local as well as Paris experts have found to
be completely devoid of antigen,” Wilde said,
describing it as “colored water.”
Wilde opined in an hour-long meeting with
ANIMAL PEOPLE that the shortage of veterinarians
in Pakistan is so acute and the abundance of
street dogs so large that it will be necessary to
kill dogs just to reduce the numbers enough to
have a hope of being able to sterilize and
vaccinate 70%.
“I know you don’t want to hear that,” Wilde said.

Introducing sterilization

“A handful of animal loving organizations
and people from Geo T.V. are trying their level
best to stop the mass killing of dogs,” offered
I.H. Kathio, DVM.
Born in Larkana, Pakistan, Kathio, 51,
now owns three U.S. veterinary clinics and three
others in Pakistan. His primary practice is in
Pennsylvania, but he also directs a pilot dog
and cat sterilization project at the
government-funded Richmond Crawford Animal
Hospital in Karachi.
“In this hospital I am setting up an
American-standard surgical and examination room,”
Kathio told ANIMAL PEOPLE in November 2004. I am
donating surgical and medical supplies.”
Kathio expressed hope that he can
eventually train enough veterinary surgeons to do
high-speed sterilization under strictly aseptic
conditions to equip Karachi, and Pakistan, to
deal with dog overpopulation humanely.
Meanwhile, argued Rizvi, “Dogs are a
part of our urban ecology. Poisoning them can
create environmental havoc. Moreover, poisoning
is a painful way to kill animals, and inimical
to the teachings of the Holy Prophet, who said
‘Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind
to himself.’ I understand people in Karachi are
being rewarded when someone shoots a dog and
brings the tail to the authorities for
compensation. This is in total contempt of the
teachings of the Holy Prophet, who said ‘If you
must kill, kill without torture.'”
Rizvi told fellow protesters against the
Karachi poisoning that Pakistan is not an
inhumane nation, regardless of superficial
“A few years ago, I visited Karachi, my
former place of residence, and was overwhelmed
by the positive response I received when I talked
about animal rights at the Hotel Metropole,” he
said. “The Pakistan Arts Council, the Pakistan
Medical Association, and Engineers and Scientist
for Animal Rights had sponsored an art exhibit on
the humane treatment of animals. I was moved by
the children’s presentations. They profoundly
expressed their concern for animals.”
“We will strongly protest this genocide,”
Qureshi pledged.

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