Bali Island, Indonesia - Authorities on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Monday denied allegations by activists that the campaign to kill stray dogs to contain a rabies outbreak was violating animal rights.
Ida Bagus Alit, the head of Bali's animal husbandry department, said only stray and wild dogs that posed threats to people were being killed.
"There has been criticism from animal rights activists that we are killing dogs indiscriminately," Ida said. "This is not true."
Authorities in Denpasar, the island's capital, launched a drive February 9 to kill stray dogs to contain rabies.
One person has died and tested positive for rabies while the virus has been blamed for the death of five other people since last year, according to Bali's health department.
The department said at least 534 people have been bitten by dogs this year alone, sparking fears of a widespread rabies epidemic in a region economically dependent on tourism.
About 37,000 dogs have been vaccinated and more than 1,000 others culled since the outbreak of the disease in Denpasar and Badung district in September, Ida said.
Health workers used poisoned darts and strychnine-laced food to put down stray dogs in Denpasar.
Dewa Made Ngurah, the head of Denpasar's animal husbandry office, said the campaign had received widespread public support.
"They have requested that the elimination of wild dogs continue," he said.
At least 112 stray dogs, including 30 on Monday, have been put down since the campaign began this month, the official said.
Wayan Mudiarta of the Yudistira Foundation, a group of dog lovers, said the use of strychnine to kill dogs was not recommended internationally because it amounted to torture.
"We want the culls to be conducted by using methods that cause no pain to animals," he said. "We have submitted our recommendations, but they said it would take time."
There are an estimated 230,000 dogs on Bali, 30 per cent of which are domesticated, officials said.
Britain, the United States and Australia have issued warnings to travellers about rabies on Bali.
Rabies has been reported on the Indonesian islands of Java and Flores, but Bali was free of the disease for decades until last year.
The World Health Organization estimated that more than 40,000 people die from rabies every year. Most deaths take place in developing countries, particularly in South-East Asia. (dpa)
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