Soi Dog Foundation was proud to welcome the Director-General of the Department of Disease Control Dr. Tares Krassanairawiwong, along with representatives from other key agencies, to their shelter in Mai Khao, Phuket last week. The visit followed a ‘Rabies Network Development’ workshop in Phuket Town last week to discuss establishing Phuket as Thailand’s first rabies-free province.
Top of the agenda was Soi Dog’s large-scale sterilisation and vaccination programme. Known as CNVR (Catch, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return), the programme has seen more than 950,000 stray animals spayed/neutered and vaccinated since their founding in 2003, making it the largest of its kind in the world. The programme is contributing to a steady decline in the stray population and reducing the spread of communicable diseases, including rabies.
Several leading authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), agree that the most effective way to eliminate rabies in humans is to eliminate it in dogs. Vaccinating 70% of dogs in an area will result in the elimination of rabies.
It is a similar situation with reducing the stray dog population; neutering 80% of dogs in an area will lead to a sustained reduction in numbers, as long as a maintenance programme is kept up. This is provided that vaccinated and neutered dogs are left in place to build up herd immunity and prevent new, unneutered dogs taking over a territory.
“It’s taken time to see a reduction in the population of dogs on the island. Soi Dog has been running a programme of CNVR for 20 years,” said Soi Dog’s Phuket CNVR Manager Dr. Nattanich Maneewong. “The statistics show that it is working. We record data to monitor progress, plan ahead and ensure the programme is as successful as possible.”
Systematic recording and community engagement are both critical for the effective implementation of a large-scale programme such as this, helping to determine the number of unneutered animals in an area and coordinate operations accordingly.
The visiting delegation learned how this works in practice through Soi Dog’s 14 mobile sterilisations clinics across southern Thailand and in Greater Bangkok. The foundation’s rescue officers locate and humanely catch stray animals with the help of local feeders. Those animals are then spayed/neutered and vaccinated and the inside of their ears tattooed to indicate that they have passed through the programme. Once recovered from the surgery, the animals are then returned safely to their individual territories – their presence there helping to build herd immunity.
The visiting delegation also learned about Soi Dog’s other programmes, including treatment, community outreach, education and adoption. To assist stray animals in need, the Department of Disease Control kindly donated some medical equipment for use in the foundation’s on-site hospitals.
As highlighted at the Rabies Network Development workshop, there has been just one recorded case of rabies (in a dog) in Phuket since the turn of the century – thanks in part to Soi Dog’s CNVR programme – making the province eligible for evaluation as a rabies-free area. If successful, it will be the first of Thailand’s 77 provinces to achieve such status.
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