Stepping in to help save Congo’s threatened dogs

11 August 2014

In August 2013, Africa’s Republic of Congo was hit by a frightening rabies outbreak that killed ten people in the first four months.

As often happens, the authorities reacted with a mass campaign that indiscriminately captured and killed hundreds of local dogs.

“So many countries confronting human deaths from rabies have a kneejerk response of rounding up and culling dogs. This is what was happening in Congo,” said Dr Leon Tati, the Republic’s Political Advisor of Livestock.

We responded to the urgent situation

Thankfully, the Congolese government reached out for support to deal with the life-threatening emergency, and we stepped in to help.

Nairobi vet, Emily Mudogo, joined the response team along with representatives from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Emily is our Companion Animal Campaign Manager and a champion of widespread vaccination as the most effective way to control this terrible disease. 

Limited resources made vaccinations slow going

In Pointe Noire, Congo’s second largest city, Emily found the vets at the veterinary headquarters were struggling to control the disease humanely. They didn’t have any vehicles or the right training to run a dog vaccination programme. 

“There were also not enough refrigeration units to store large quantities of vaccines, quarantine areas, and other things well-resourced veterinary departments take for granted,” Emily told us.

Despite these problems, the clever vets had worked out a system to vaccinate 50-60 dogs a day by taking the vaccinations door-to-door in the community.

Raising rabies awareness is a key priority too

In many poor countries, educating people about rabies and its prevention is often seen as a lower priority than short-term disease control. Many of the local people Emily met were completely unaware of the disease and how to avoid it.

How training a few makes a difference to many

Emily and the FAO team showed officials how vaccination is the humane and effective way to wipe out rabies. During a three-day workshop, they trained 40 attendees in practical dog handling and vaccination techniques and explained how to educate local people. The training session also enabled people from different government departments to discuss together how to deal with rabies, now and in the future.

Opening doors to a better future

Emily hopes that her work with the FAO in Congo will help end dog culling in Africa. She’d like to go back and help the government develop a national rabies elimination strategy based on vaccination, responsible dog ownership and humane dog population control.

To find out more about our work to end the culling of dogs all over the world. 

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