Global campaign to protect animals and communities launches on World Rabies DayBOSTON, MASS. – Every year, more than 55,000 people around the world die from rabies. In response, nearly 20 million dogs are needlessly and cruelly killed in misguided attempts to control the disease. Today, on World Rabies Day, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is calling for “Collars Not Cruelty” and asking governments worldwide to tackle rabies through the only humane and effective solution: mass vaccination of dogs.
“Rabies poses a serious threat to both human and animal populations in many parts of the world,” said Ray Mitchell, International Campaigns Director, WSPA. “When confronted with the problem of this fast-spreading disease, national governments sometimes turn to what they believe is the only way to wipe out rabies: wipe out the dog population. However, a world without rabies does not have to mean a world without dogs.”
“I think it’s absolutely horrific that 20 million dogs are killed every year because of the fear of rabies, when there is an alternative solution,” said WSPA celebrity supporter Leona Lewis. “I really want to help WSPA spread the word worldwide and end the cruelty that is happening at the moment. By educating people and getting vaccinations out there, we’re not only helping dogs, but entire communities.”
Over the past several years, WSPA has led many successful rabies control projects in Bali, Sri Lanka and several Latin American countries – all of which provided humane and sustainable alternatives to killing the dog population in a response to rabies. As part of its “Collars Not Cruelty” campaign, the organization will work to implement similar mass vaccination projects in other areas of the world. For example, WSPA is currently working on a new project in Bangladesh, where it is supporting the national government in implementing a large-scale vaccination campaign in the town of Cox’s Bazar. The effort will save thousands of dogs in its first year alone and pave the way for a nation-wide vaccination campaign.
“We look forward to working with WSPA,” said Prof. Be-Nazir Ahmed, Director of Disease Control, Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “We will proceed in a united way to eliminate rabies without the need to cull dogs.”
WSPA strongly advocates that animal welfare agencies work in close partnership with human health, education and social welfare agencies to eradicate rabies. It is widely accepted that the only truly effective solution for rabies control relies on a combination of dog vaccination, community education for bite prevention and accessible post-exposure treatment for bite victims. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described such vaccination campaigns as, “Globally, the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people.”
Success in Bali: Vaccinating more than 210,000 Dogs against Rabies
WSPA’s mass vaccination solution involves teams of trained animal handlers who use the most locally-appropriate methods to locate, catch and immunize dogs against rabies, before giving them a red collar to signify their status as vaccinated. In turn, these red-collared dogs become a visible symbol of the proactive measures being taken to protect the communities from rabies, without resorting to cruel methods of killing dogs.
Indonesia’s tourist destination Bali demonstrates the most recent success of the solution proposed by WSPA. A multi-stakeholder approach was agreed upon by the Balinese government, and the first island-wide mass vaccination program launched on World Rabies Day 2010. In the first phase of the campaign, approximately 210,000 dogs (70% of the total estimated population) were vaccinated in 4,126 banjars (neighborhoods) throughout Bali. In the first six months, the project saw a decrease of more than 45% in cases of canine rabies and a reduction of 48% in rabies-related human deaths, when compared to the same period in the previous year.
“Our work in Bali offered proof that a humane alternative for rabies control was both practical and effective. Other governments are beginning to recognize this success, and we are now working in several countries, including Bangladesh, to design similar models for rabies control,” said Mitchell. “With the increasing support we are receiving from governments, international agencies and inter-governmental bodies, WSPA is confident we can create a world where we see collars – not cruelty – winning the fight against rabies.”