The Department of Agriculture has issued a moratorium on charging of laboratory fee for rabies examination in government facilities like the Philippine Animal Health Center of the Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) and the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs) of the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices beginning February 2015 until December 31, 2016.
Although rabies diagnosis is available in government facilities, there are still unreported cases of animal rabies due to non-submission of samples for laboratory confirmation. The payment of a laboratory fee for rabies is seen as a hindrance because most people in rural areas could not afford to pay the fee.
The DA-BAI decided to waive the lab fee to encourage more people to report suspected animal rabies cases and promote dog vaccination that will help hasten the goal of a rabies-free Philippines by 2016. The move should also help them obtain a clearer picture of the disease situation to support the channelling of resources for rabies prevention and control in greatly affected areas.
The agency targets to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the estimated dog population in the country or about 7 million dogs yearly for the next two years.
Rabies Awareness Month, celebrated annually every March, aims to increase public awareness on the risks of rabies and the importance of having dogs and cats vaccinated regularly against this fatal disease.
This year’s campaign draws from BAI's Php 40 million budget for rabies prevention and control, with support from the Department of Health (DOH). A foreign-assistance from the World Organization for Animal Health and the Australian Government which aims to vaccinate 300,000 dogs annually in the Bicol region also helps in national efforts to eradicate rabies.
Lopez urged Filipinos to be responsible pet owners by giving good nutrition, clean shelter, proper grooming, and health care to their pets. She said pets must not be abandoned or allowed to roam the streets unattended to prevent the spread of rabies. More importantly, pets must be vaccinated regularly against rabies, she added.