Humane mass dog vaccination programs control rabies regardless of geography, climate or politics.
If 70 per cent of dogs in a region are vaccinated, cases of rabies will drop. If the vaccination program continues over a number of years, dog rabies will be eliminated – saving dogs from horrific suffering and offering protection and peace of mind to human communities.
Evidence: Latin America
In 1983, Latin America committed to mass dog vaccination to eliminate cases of human rabies transmitted by dogs. Adopting this humane approach has paid off: dog rabies cases in the region declined from a peak of 25,000 in 1977 to just 196 in 2011 – a decrease of over 99 per cent. Similarly, human rabies cases fell by 96 per cent to only 15 across the whole continent.
The effectiveness of vaccination is clear: dog rabies cases were reduced to zero from close to 5,000 per year in Buenos Aires, 1,000 in Lima, and 1,200 in Sao Paulo.
In 1994, the authorities in Jaipur trialled a mass dog vaccination program in part of the city affected by rabies, using guidelines created by WSPA and the World Health Organization (WHO). This four kilometre square area had experienced as many as ten human rabies cases per year, but thanks to the vaccination program, this had reduced to zero by 2001. Sadly, during the same period the number of dog rabies cases in unvaccinated areas of the city increased. Since then, a local animal welfare group, Help in Suffering, has continued to humanely vaccinate an average of 70 dogs a week across Jaipur. As a result, there have been zero reported human rabies cases in the city since 2002.
From 1996 to 2001, two mass dog vaccination campaigns were carried out in villages in the Serengeti region. The first led to a 70 per cent decrease in dog rabies cases, while the second achieved an amazing 97 per cent decrease. However, dog rabies cases underwent no such decline in villages where vaccinations did not take place. As a result, a regular dog vaccination program was established, which – as of 2001 – has eliminated rabies from pastoral communities and the Serengeti National Park.
Evidence: South Africa
In 2007 a mass dog vaccination project was launched with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the Kwazulu Natal province of South Africa – an area that had experienced as many as 30 human rabies cases in a single year. Prior to the project, rabies had been a problem for local people and dogs for decades; as of September 2011, however, it had been 14 months since the last human case.