In honor of World Rabies Day, we're throwing a few parties

In China, vaccinating dogs can save livesA few years ago, in the midst of a growing rabies epidemic in Bali, I received a phone call from our partner at the Bali Animal Welfare Association.

Our team was working in the tiny village of Kelusa, where a 9-year-old girl had been bitten by a suspect rabid dog, and the local clinic didn’t have the vaccines to save her life.

The closest ones were in Jakarta, a short flight away – at a cost higher than her family’s monthly income.

Would we pay for them?

At least 70,000 people (and possibly many, many more) die from rabies every year and children represent up to 70% of the victims. It has been called the “most fatal disease in the world” because, without treatment, death is nearly 100% certain.

From a human perspective, it’s terrifying, yet in communities throughout Asia and Africa, parents live in constant fear for themselves and their children.

The other side of this tragic disease is that the fear it inspires is so often unleashed on the dogs themselves. Dogs, whose bites are the primary cause of rabies in humans, are so often killed or beaten because of the fear of rabies.

IFAW teams in South Africa stopped a rabies outbreak before it got startedEven worse, in the places where rabies is a real threat, communities also often lack information. A dog with mange, or a dog in heat might be mistaken for a “rabid” dog, and be beaten or killed.

But rabies is 100% preventable through vaccination and public education, which means that vaccinating dogs, and teaching people how to recognize it and what to do when bitten, can save the lives of dogs and people.

In honor of World Rabies Day, I’d like to share what we’re doing in communities around the world to combat the impact of this horrific disease.

In China, where thousands of dogs have been culled in response to rabies cases, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s outreach teams are educating citizens about vaccination and our lobbying teams are stopping more culls each year by reaching out to policymakers and citizens alike with the rabies education that can stop senseless fear-driven culls.

In Cozumel, Mexico, we are pleased to report that nearly every pet-owning household we surveyed gets their dogs vaccinated annually.

Thanks to a comprehensive and progressive campaign by the Mexican government to eradicate rabies, annual vaccinations are the norm, and Cozumel Island remains rabies-free.

In South Africa, where our teams work in informal settlements, we responded to an emerging epidemic in 2010 by rushing into the communities and vaccinating every animal, door-to-shack door. The teams continue their vigilance daily, by providing vaccination and vital education.

The team’s quick action stopped the outbreak in 2010 and prevented the kind of fear-driven cruelty we see too often in other places.

In honor of World Rabies Day, our clinic in Cape Town is holding a public event and providing free dog vaccinations. (Any excuse to have a party!)

And last, Bali, where IFAW contributed to a successful massive operation to vaccinate 70% of Bali’s dogs 2 years ago, we continue to press for an end to sporadic culling and resumption of government-led vaccination.

The progress made in 2010 was tremendous, but must be carried on by government-led teams. IFAW and our partners continue to educate entire villages and provide vaccinations.

In honor of World Rabies Day, the team are holding a public outreach event (another party!) and offering free vaccinations.

Around the world, we join in the fight to ensure that communities can feel safe to enjoy their animal companions. With the knowledge we have now, not one more human or dog should die of this horrific disease.


Post a comment


Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters