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Advice from WSPA for World Rabies Day

Sep 5, 2007

Boy and companion, Sierra Leone

World Rabies Day (September 8th 2007) is about raising global awareness on a preventable disease.

Despite being an entirely preventable disease, 100 people die each day from rabies. We are working with the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) to raise awareness of this disease by highlighting safe travel and encouraging people to protect themselves and their animals.

Dr Elly Hiby, Head of Companion Animals for WSPA, explained that while we do not want to alarm anyone it is important that travellers have simple advice on keeping themselves and their pets safe.

She said: “Rabies is a human killer as well as raising considerable animal welfare concerns and is something that WSPA takes seriously. Many of our responsible pet ownership programs are considered by Governments to be part of their rabies control strategies.

She added: “Dogs, in particular, suffer from this agonizing disease and from inhumane attempts to control it such as the mass culling of stray dogs. Often the methods used are inherently cruel and this type of reaction is ineffective long term in reducing the dog population or human rabies incidences that rabies causes.”

Around 1/3 of all WSPA’s companion animal programs involve rabies control, in countries throughout Asia, Africa and South America, including India, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Colombia and many more… In addition pet owners are encouraged to get their pet vaccinated, castrated and checked by a vet regularly.

In addition if you are travelling with your pet there are some easy steps to take:

  • Ensure your pet is vaccinated against rabies
  • The Pet Travel Scheme (“PETS”) allows animals to travel between countries without undergoing quarantine in certain countries. If the countries in question are members of the scheme, pets will have to be identified with a microchip and issued with a ‘Pet Passport’.

www.worldrabiesday.org/

CASE STUDY: On December 26 2004 an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that hit the countries of the Indian Ocean, killing 250,000 people. Countless numbers of animals were also killed, but many more were left homeless.

Before the tsumani veterinary care on the Indian, Sri Lankan and Thailand coastlines was uncommon, especially for cats and dogs, but after the tsunami, veterinary services became a real rarity and with the necessary focus on human welfare and rehabilitation, animal welfare and care inevitably suffered.

Just after the tsunami hit there was an increase in stray cats and dogs (due to death or relocation of owners). Displacement and concentration of cats and dogs meant an increased risk of rabies outbreaks and a breakdown in veterinary services in the tsunami affected areas.

WSPA involvement

In response to the tsunami, WSPA and its Member Societies mounted immediate relief aid in the form of mass rabies vaccination campaigns, feeding programs, rescue operations and emergency veterinary care in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

After the period of immediate relief, WSPA engaged in a rehabilitation phase to bring medium-term veterinary care and humane dog control programs to the tsunami-affected coastlines of Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. Outreach veterinary care was provided to coastal areas by means of mobile clinics or static clinics with transport. Humane dog population control was provided in areas of need via field clinics. Work also included practical, clinical education programs for student, private and government veterinarians.

In total 33,346 animals were vaccinated against rabies and 6,843 were sterilized.

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