Letter: Why rabies jabs could go wrong

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The Independent Online
Sir: Prior vaccination of pets against rabies would not necessarily make their import without quarantine safe (letters, 3, 6 January). Sooner or later something will go wrong and a pet will be admitted while incubating rabies. Animals incubating the infection at the time of vaccination are still able to pass it on at the end of the incubation period, which may be prolonged, despite having passed the blood test.

There are probably about 8 million dogs in the country, of which a large, but unknown proportion are uncontrolled - strays, or turned out daily to fend for themselves while their owners are at work. With the introduction of rabies, they would be available, if unvaccinated, as vectors for its further spread.

Abolition of quarantine should be preceded by vaccination against rabies of all British dogs. This will require a registration scheme detailing the whereabouts of dogs and their owners, and a rogue-proof system of animal identification. It would thus be possible to require animals to be presented for vaccination and regular revaccination.

The Government has so far refused to consider registration, but schemes that work are not impossible. Other countries have them. If an adequate fee is charged, a system of dog-registration could be self-financing - even with rebates for blind persons and poor pensioners. It is not unreasonable to require owners to meet the costs. This may not be regarded kindly by pet-owning voters, but could be a useful way to reduce the number of dogs in the country to those which are really wanted.

Professor COLIN KAPLAN FRCPath

Reading, Berkshire

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