(File photo)

MANILA – In observing the Rabies Awareness Month, UniTeam senatorial aspirant Harry Roque said he would push for legislation to make owners liable for dog bites.

Roque, author of House Bill No. 5965 or "An Act in Relation to Owner's Liability for Dog Bites" when he was a congressman, said he would refile this proposed measure in the Senate if elected.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease, yet more than 59,000 people die from this disease annually in the Philippines.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), rabies is considered a public health problem and is one of the most acutely fatal infections, responsible for at least 200 Filipinos each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said 99 percent of all rabies transmissions are from dogs.

These numbers, Roque said, are "unacceptable" since rabies is a neglected disease yet 100 percent preventable.

He said the bill subjects the dog owners to damages to encourage them to act responsibly in taking their dogs out in public and allowing interactions between their dogs and people on their property.

The bill is expected to reduce the number of serious injuries resulting from dog bites and prevent the spread of rabies, Roque added.

Under the bill, the dog owner is liable for damages suffered by any person bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private area, including the dog owner's property.

“A person is lawfully upon the private property of such an owner when such person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by law, or when he or she is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner," the bill said.

Earlier, the DOH launched a campaign to strengthen the prevention campaign to avoid unnecessary deaths due to rabies.

The campaign focuses on responsible pet ownership and vaccine availability at established Animal Bite Treatment Centers.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the government had made great strides in eliminating rabies, particularly in the Visayas region, where a number of provinces were declared rabies-free. (PR)