MANILA, Philippines—Leading up to World Rabies Day on Sept. 28, Humane Society International’s Street Dog Defender veterinarians and Filipino actress Sharmaine Arnaiz went door to door in the Payatas for a mass dog vaccination drive to help the Philippines tackle deadly rabies. The virus kills up to 300 people every year in the Philippines and between 50-70,000 people globally, with most cases linked to dog bites.
While in the past the authorities have conducted mass dog culls, which only temporarily reduce dog numbers but don’t offer a humane or sustainable solution, HSI is now using its unique smartphone app technology to tackle the issue more strategically and scientifically. Using the app developed by the charity, HSI vets can geo-track every dog they vaccinate so that they can be sure to achieve the 70 per cent vaccination target needed for overall dog population immunity.
The Philippines is among the top ten countries in the world for rabies, but HSI believes the high-tech accuracy of its app could be a game-changer for tackling rabies humanely worldwide.
HSI’s Rahul Sehgal, senior director of Companion Animals & Engagement, says: “To achieve rabies immunity in a large dog population, you don’t need to vaccinate every dog but you do need to safely achieve 70 per cent. Without knowing what proportion of the dogs have been given their shots, it’s impossible to know when you’ve hit that magic number. So with HSI’s smartphone app we can map the entire city and see where every vaccinated dog is. It’s quick, easy and strategic, so it could be a game-changer in tackling rabies globally. We’re using it here in the Philippines, but also across India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, and it’s working really well.”
There are an estimated 10 million dogs in the Philippines, many of them living as family pets but most are not vaccinated or sterilised, meaning a constant cycle of new and vulnerable puppies being born. HSI hopes that its compassionate and community-centred approach will encourage pet owners to join in as part of a new wave of canine crusaders to help the Philippines tackle rabies.
Filipino actress Sharmaine Arnaiz is a passionate dog and cat lover, and joined HSI’s team to see first-hand a modern approach to tackling rabies. Ms Arnaiz says: “The best solution for dogs, cats and people is to protect animals from contracting rabies in the first place, and to improve the human-animal relationship. I’m so impressed by Humane Society International’s approach because it combines science with education, and I can see that people here understand they need to be part of the solution too by keeping their pets vaccinated.”
HSI has been working in the Philippines since 2009, providing spay-and-neuter programs, rabies vaccinations, dog population surveys, community outreach, and data collection to prove the efficacy of these programs to local and national governments.
The Philippines is just one of the many countries across Asia and Africa tackling street dog overpopulation or rabies challenges. Humane Society International’s high-impact Street Dog Defender programme aims to improve the lives of 300 million street dogs around the world through mass sterilisation and vaccination.
Download b-roll footage and high res images here.