English adventurer, Ben Fogle, recently wrote about his visit to the African country of Tanzania, where a mass vaccination program was set up to immunize dogs against rabies.
In the West, we consider dogs to be “a man’s best friend,” and well this is true, in some parts of the world a dog bite can mean a painful death. Over 70,000 people die every year of rabies, with a large percentage of that being children.
Rabies in the West is not very common, whereas in countries like Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa, dogs who haven’t been vaccinated for rabies are a threat to public safety. Rabies in humans is not curable, and it is a painful death. Scientists say that vaccinating dogs is an effective way to get rid of rabies outbreaks in dog populations.
In Tanzania public health officials set up dog vaccinations centers in 180 villages. Before the vaccinations centers were started, there were, an average of 50 rabies deaths every year in Tanzania. After the vaccination centers were set up, the number dropped to zero.
Ben Fogle had the chance to visit a vaccination centre, close to the village of Loliondo, in Northern Tanzania, where he witnessed dogs waiting with their owners.
“The long queue of dogs and their owners was an incredible sight. Many people had walked up to 10 km to have their dogs inoculated. Some children arrived pushing a cart full of dogs, while others held cardboard boxes packed with puppies,” said Fogle.
Fogle notes that local dogs in Tanzania are used as working dogs, for hunting and guarding, but he saw no shortage of affection between the dogs and their owners.
“One woman cuddled her dog closely, whispering into its ear while the vet injected the scruff of its neck. The dog yelped, growled and snapped as the team of vets administered the vaccination.”
Following the immunizations, the dogs are presented with a blue collar and a recored of immunization for the owner.
Fogle says it was “uplifting” to see the many Tanzanians on their way home surrounded by packs of dogs in smart collars, an initiative to rid the region of rabies, protecting humans and local wildlife.