It’s no wonder that dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’ – for centuries,they’ve been by our sides. Whether that’s for companionship, home security, orworking as a team on the fields, rounding up flocks. Their acute senses alsomean that they’ve been trained to detect drugs at airports, and work isunderway to see if they can even sniff out diseases such as cancer [1]andmalaria[2]. With their little wet noses, adorable eyes and fluffy ears, it’seasy to see why they make the world a better place for people, and sometimes,they even save lives.

Dogs are everyday heroes. So why are our canine friends often mistreated?

Barbaric dog fighting, being cooked alive for their meat, and being abandonedwhen they’re no longer wanted. These are some of the extreme acts of crueltythat these loyal animals endure. One of the big problems facing dogs today,certainly in countries where rabies is present, is the threat of being culled,as a misguided attempt to keep people safe from the disease.

Rabies is a disease that can be transmitted through the bite or scratch of aninfected animal, which can be carried by dogs. If left untreated, theconsequences can be fatal. But, it is preventable. The teams at World AnimalProtection not only work on the ground to vaccinate and neuter dogs, but alsoeducate and work with government bodies across the world to eliminate rabiesvia educating communities. World Animal Protection have vaccinated 1.6 milliondogs since 2013 and are championing the United Against Rabies Collaboration’s‘Zero by 30’ rabies elimination initiative.

**Perception: The most effective way to eliminate rabies is to cull dogs

Reality: Millions of dogs around the world suffer horrendous cruelty in abid to reduce their numbers. They’re dragged through the streets,electrocuted, poisoned or gassed – it’s a horrendous way to die, and not tomention, needless. Culling is often seen as a way to control populations ofroaming dogs and minimise the risk of rabies. But this is only a misguidedattempt to eliminate the disease.

Studies show that when you cull dogs in one area, a new pack of dogs will movein once the territory is available, and killing dogs undermines vaccinationefforts where the turnover of dogs is high. In fact, there is no evidence thatculling dogs alone has ever led to a reduction in rabies, whereas whenvaccination coverage of around 70% or higher has been achieved – the resultshave been extremely positive[3]. Culling isn’t the answer – it will noteradicate rabies, vaccinations will.

The positive impact one simple vaccination can have on a dog cannot beignored. Mass vaccination of dogs will not just eliminate rabies – it willeliminate the fear of rabies and change the negative perception people have ofdogs.

Perception: It’s just as effective to treat people that have been exposed torabies than vaccinating dogs

Reality: Prevention, is always better than cure. By vaccinating dogs forrabies, the disease is stopped in its tracks, and that’s the safest solution.Rabies can be fatal, and if bitten by a rabid dog, it’ll be a race against theclock to find treatment. This is a problem for those far from medicalfacilities, who cannot afford the treatment, or those who don’t realise thatthey’ve contracted the disease.

Over 95% of all human rabies cases are caused by contact with rabid dogs. Dogscan’t vaccinate themselves, but people can make a big difference to both thelives of dogs and people around them, by taking responsibility to stop themfrom being exposed to the disease. Protected dogs, protect communities, so Ithey are vaccinated, you can relax in the knowledge that the vaccination iscompletely effective, and most importantly, vaccinations save lives.

**Perception: The most cost-effective way to reduce rabies is to treatpeople directly

Reality: The financial differences are staggering. When you look at theglobal average, it costs around $3USD to vaccinate a dog against rabies, andthis could be a dog that could transmit the disease to numerous people. But onthe other hand, treating a person that’s been bitten by a rabid dog will cost$108USD on average – that’s 26 times as much, and the cost is even higher inAsia – 30 times the price. Also, if just 10% of what is spent on post exposuretreatment was spent on mass vaccination schemes, then rabies could beeliminated altogether. Caring for your dog and keeping them safe from rabiesis a small price to pay, it will benefit both dogs and people.

Perception: Governments are doing everything they can to eliminate rabies

Reality: Rabies needs to be a priority for governments in countiesaffected. There’s a clear opportunity to make sure that rabies programmes arebeing taught in schools in these countries. Rabies is a particular issue forchildren, with up to 60% of the victims being under the age of 15[4]. Thereare simple messages that children can learn that could save their lives –washing the wound immediately and telling someone they need to see a doctorright away.

Rural communities could especially benefit from implementing vaccinationprogrammes for dogs, and if we stand a chance of meeting the UN’s SustainableDevelopment Goal 3 then governments must adopt a combined vaccination andeducation policy.

Perception: If you’re bitten by a dog with rabies, the best thing to dois to wash it and see if it will clear up in a few days

Reality: Although washing the wounded area with soap immediately andfrequently could make a big difference, this alone won’t stop rabies becominga serious issue. Once the disease has manifested itself past a certain pointand symptoms become apparent, it is 100% fatal.

According to new research done by World Animal Protection, most respondentsunderstood that they should seek immediate medical help, although some thoughtthat cleaning the wound with alcohol, bandaging the wound and catching the dogwould suffice. The simple fact is, that there are absolutely no medicalsubstitutes when it comes to rabies. If bitten, medical attention must besought immediately.

Perception: It’s easy to identify rabies in dogs – they’ll be foaming at themouth and roaming, not a pet

Reality: Rabies can affect any dog, even pets. When they contract thedisease, they pose a risk immediately, although on the surface, this might notbe obvious. Using force or violence to defend yourself against roaming dogswill only aggravate them and make the situation worse, so be calm and kind.

The only way to ensure that the dogs around you are risk-free, is to supportvaccination schemes. In addition to this, getting either your pets or dogsaround you sterilised and registered or microchipped will also help. Caringfor the dogs around you in this way can help prevent the spread of disease,stop unwanted puppies which could lead to more roaming dogs, and make themidentifiable as safe.





Image Credit: Vets Beyond Borders

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