The law should be changed so that owners of animals with rabies can be held responsible for the loss of a life, a KwaZulu-Natal MEC said on Thursday.
“There must be a provision in the legislation to charge people with murder or attempted murder,” said Meshack Radebe, who is responsible for environmental affairs.
He was speaking while visiting the family of a 21-year-old man who died of rabies in Mariannhill, outside Durban.
“Owners of animals know if their animals have been vaccinated or not. We cannot charge the animals, but we can charge the owners.”
Radebe said his department knew of four deaths, but that there could be many more that had not been reported.
“People are not prepared to heed the call to vaccinate their cats and dogs.”
Radebe's spokesman Jeffrey Zikhali said Siyabonga Knowledge Majola was bitten by a dog in mid-June, but only sought treatment at St Mary's Hospital for the bite two days later.
“He was given the tetanus vaccine and immunoglobulin, and the first dose of rabies vaccine,” Zikhali said.
“An appointment to attend Tshelenyama clinic was then organised for the remainder of his rabies doses. Some reports indicate he apparently defaulted the follow-up.”
Majola was admitted to Durban's RK Khan Hospital last Wednesday with left shoulder pain, palpitations, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water).
He failed to respond to treatment and died on Saturday morning.
Zikhali said a sample of his saliva had been sent for testing at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and that a post mortem would be done.
Four people in KwaZulu-Natal had died from rabies this year.
A four-year-old boy from Umlazi remains in a serious condition at Durban's Clairwood hospital after two infected dogs bit him in April. - Sapa