Janice Mathlay from SPCA in Kloof vaccinates Zora (Black and white dog) while dogowner Bernice Wortmann comforts Hoover(orange and white dog)who is next for the vaccination.Picture Zanele Zulu,19/06/2012

Over 12 000 animals in KwaZulu-Natal’s uThukela district have been vaccinated against rabies in the past few weeks – and they keep coming.

Kevin le Roux, head of the Rabies Elimination Project, said this was only half of the animals in the area, and he would now be starting with the other half, and moving on to the Loskop area.

“About 185 000 animals were vaccinated in KZN in the first four months of the year, and this is higher than the same period over four years,” he said. “We are still compiling the figures for May and June.”

He said the project had been overwhelmed by the response from pet owners.

Le Roux said five SPCAs in the province had opened rabies clinics, where they provided free vaccinations to all animals.

The Pietermaritzburg SPCA had already vaccinated about 1 000 dogs, he said. At the Kloof SPCA, pet owners could get animals vaccinated at no charge until the end of the week.

“We’ve been inundated with donations for this programme and we are so grateful,” said Kloof SPCA veterinary nurse, Cheri Cooke. “Rabies is a major concern, so we are doing all we can to help,” Cooke said.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation donated R16.5 million to the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs to help in the fight against the rabies pandemic in the province.

“These funds will be used to bolster our current efforts. We are looking to vaccinate between 500 000 and 600 000 dogs, or 70 percent of the dog population in the province, annually,” said the department’s MEC, Meshack Radebe.

Professor Louis Nel, a rabies expert from the University of Pretoria, said funding and support had also come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped to launch a series of pilot programmes geared towards the elimination of rabies in dogs.

“KZN was chosen for many reasons, one of which was that the government was already making efforts to contain the virus,” he said.

Nel said another challenge was that treatment of the disease fell between the sectors of veterinary science and health.

On June 8, Underberg canoeist Graeme Anderson, 29, died at a Pietermaritzburg hospital after contracting rabies from a stray dog. - Daily News

[email protected]