Stop Wasting Time Culling Millions of Dogs, When Thousands are Dying from Rabies: World Rabies Day 28 September 2012

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“While we waste time culling millions of dogs, because of our fear of rabies, thousands of people (many of them children), are dying horrific and painful deaths from this deadly disease”. Says Mike Baker, Chief Executive of WSPA, (World Society for the Protection of Animals). WSPA, who run the global Red Collar Campaign promoting a humane approach to tackling rabies,  want governments to introduce mass dog vaccination schemes, which have been shown to be effective in helping stamp out this deadly, but wholly preventable, disease.

All leading organisations committed to controlling rabies, including the World Health Organisations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Pan American Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, agree that killing dogs doesn’t control canine rabies and therefore has no impact on reducing the incidence of rabies in humans.

In the Asia Pacific region, WSPA, the leading global animal welfare organisation, is marking World Rabies Day (28 September) by announcing a partnership to roll out a Rabies National Action Plan with the Bangladesh government. This will help stamp out rabies in Bangladesh, where over 2000 people a year die from the deadly disease. It will be rolling out programmes in Philippines and Indonesia in partnership with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) and national governments.

In Latin America, which has been leading the way in developing a humane and sustainable approach to tackling dog rabies for nearly thirty years, WSPA will be showcasing success stories in Mexico, Brazil and Peru where rabies has virtually been wiped out using a humane approach. It will also be working with governments in South America and Central America where rabies is still prevalent to help them introduce mass vaccination programmes and bring an end to culling. 

WSPA has also commissioned research in Africa this year to identify countries where rabies is most prevalent to identify how we can work with governments and communities in these countries to introduce our humane solution. We are planning to start running pilot schemes in Africa in early 2013.

More than 3 billion people (about half the world’s population) are living in countries or territories where dog rabies still exists.  A conservative estimate shows that 55,000 people a year die from the disease. 99% become infected after being bitten by a rabid dog.

However, culling dogs in response to the fear of rabies is needless, cruel and ineffective. Methods include poisoning, gassing, electrocution and even beating with iron bars. Every dog is killed in a painful way. It can take up to an hour or more for them to die in agony. WSPA’s alternative, mass vaccination is the only humane, effective and sustainable solution to stamping out rabies amongst both dogs and people.

WSPA is also marking World Rabies Day by celebrating the success of its Red Collar pilot projects in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and Bali, Indonesia. They demonstrate that a mass vaccination approach combined with community education leads to a dramatic fall in both dog and human deaths . This builds on experience in Latin America  where successful mass vaccination schemes have been run in response to rabies for nearly thirty years.

Every vaccinated dog is given a red collar to show they have been vaccinated and protected against rabies. These red-collared dogs are a visible symbol of the proactive measures being taken to defend the community from rabies without resorting to the cruel and unnecessary killing of dogs.

Vaccinating 70% of dogs in a community creates a barrier of immunised dogs. Unable to spread, rabies then becomes eliminated in the local dog population. When rabies is eliminated in dogs, it is eliminated in humans.

Our Red Collar Campaign acts as an introduction to wider animal welfare issues in communities in which we work such as looking at humane dog population control and improving the relationship between people and dogs.

“The longer we wait to tackle this deadly disease, the more dogs and people die. 55,000 people a year die of rabies; 40% of these are children. If we eliminate rabies in dogs, it helps eliminate rabies in people too.

“Our Red Collar Campaign calls on national and local governments to stop killing 20 million dogs a year, too many of which are killed, because of our fear of rabies.  It’s needless, cruel and ineffective. Through our Red Collar Campaign, we are committed to working with governments to introduce mass vaccination programmes; the only proven and humane way to wipe out rabies in communities.

“We are pleased to see the successes to date, where mass dog vaccination programmes have been introduced, but our vision is to have a world where no dog is needlessly killed in response to rabies. We want to see all countries with rabies running mass vaccination programmes until this deadly disease is stamped out.” Said Mike Baker, Chief Executive of WSPA International.

For selection of photos of WSPA’s Red Collar Campaign in action click here (more photos available on request) 


Note to editors

1. WSPA research shows that 20 million dogs are culled a year, the vast majority in response to the fear of rabies. That’s 38 every minute.

WHO research shows;

  • Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories. 95% of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa 
  • Worldwide, more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year. 
  • 40% of people who are bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age. 
  • Dogs are the source of 99% of human rabies deaths. 
  • Every year, more than 15 million people worldwide receive a post-exposure preventive regimen to avert the disease – this is estimated to prevent 327,000 rabies deaths annually

2. Spokespeople available for interview:

  • Mike Baker, Chief Executive of WSPA International (Based in UK) 
  • Ray Mitchell, Director of Campaigns at WSPA International (Based in UK) 
  • Joanna Tuckwell, Inhumane culling campaign manager for WSPA Asia Pacific (Based in New Zealand – Will be in Bangladesh from 22nd to 28th September) 
  • Dana Karunaratna, Project manager for inhumane culling at WSPA Asia Pacific (Based in Bangladesh) 
  • Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, Ministry of Health Family Welfare, Bangladesh Government (Leading on Bangladesh’s Rabies National Action Plan) (Based in Dhaka)

3. WSPA is the world’s leading animal welfare charity WSPA works tirelessly to end animal cruelty. As millions of dogs are brutally and needlessly killed each year in response to rabies, our Red Collar campaign demands an end to this cruelty.

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