Sri Lanka battles rabies with ‘stray dog sanctuaries’

May 26, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka said Thursday it planned to set up sanctuaries for stray dogs in a bid to remove them from the streets and tackle a growing rabies problem.

Between 2,000 and 2,500 people are bitten each day by stray dogs, the official said, and there is one dog for every eight humans in the country of 20 million people. The mainly Buddhist nation has banned the killing of stray dogs since 2005 but is spending over five million dollars annually to treat dog bite victims, the health ministry said.

“We want to keep stray dogs in sanctuaries so that public areas can be safer for people,” a ministry official told AFP, adding that the first open-air shelter will be in the north-central Buddhist pilgrim town of Anuradhapura.

He said the dog population was estimated at 2.5 million despite attempts at sterilisation to keep the numbers down. Four years ago, the dog population was estimated at 2.3 million.