In rural parts of Kenya, dogs are a huge part of the social fabric. By day, they help their owners to herd their livestock and by night, they dutifully watch over the family compound and protect their owners from dangerous intruders.
Dogs and local communities are closely bonded. But it doesn’t take much to tear that bond apart, says Ellie Parravani, a campaigner for 'Better Lives for Dogs' at World Animal Protection.
Around 99% of human rabies deaths are transmitted by dogs, and most human rabies cases occur in Africa and Asia. Kenya’s first case of rabies was reported in the 1920s.
Right now, rabies is more widespread in Kenya than it has ever been. The country bears the burden of up to 2,000 human rabies deaths every year. Most of these victims are children.
Inhumane and Ineffective
In the past, local governments and communities have been known to turn to mass killing dogs in a misguided attempt to control the disease. Communities, who may feel they have no other choice, have reacted to the threat by poisoning, drowning, or even clubbing dogs to death. And local governments have responded by mass killing dogs, or doing short one-off vaccination campaigns – or ineffectively combining the two together.
Inhumanely culling dogs has been proven time and time again to have little effect on rabies. The only proven solution is to consistently vaccinate 70% of dogs against the disease. This protects dogs from the threat of culling, and it protects their human companions from the threat of rabies.
These dogs have been marked with non-toxic green paint to show they have been vaccinated against rabies. World Animal Protection is working alongside the Kenyan government to establish a pilot vaccination program in Makueni County, Kenya.
Making the Change
But today, the lives of Kenya’s dogs are set to get better. The country has become the first in Africa to put together an official rabies elimination strategy – without the mass killing of dogs as a solution. Mass dog vaccination is now officially the country’s main solution in combatting rabies.
A dog is vaccinated while her owner holds her and the certificate to prove she is safe from rabies. World Animal Protection is working alongside the Kenyan government to establish a pilot vaccination program in Makueni County, Kenya.
World Animal Protection is showing the national government exactly how this solution works. We’re working with local partners in Makueni County – a county that has one of the highest rabies burdens in Kenya – to vaccinate 70% of their 120,000 dogs. At the same time, these dogs receive vital healthcare treatments like parasite control. And local children, who are often responsible for caring for the family dog, will be a part of education programmes in local schools, all leading towards better lives for Makueni’s dogs.
Christine Nyamai lives in Kalimani Village. She called her dog Mzungu, which means white person, as he was born completely bald. Christine takes good care of Mzungu, applying oil to his skin and trying to keep him shaded. Mzungu has become something of a local celebrity. World Animal Protection is working alongside the Kenyan government to establish a pilot vaccination program in Makueni County, Kenya.
Paul Muow, a local vet, speaks to 14 year old Peter. Peter has brought his dog, Mwaki, meaning Fire, to be vaccinated for the first time. World Animal Protection is working alongside the Kenyan government to establish a pilot vaccination program in Makueni County, Kenya.
The Impact on Dogs and the Community
Recently, World Animal Protection’s campaign manager Emily Mudoga met John Munyinyi – one of Makueni county’s local residents.
He told Emily how rabies has had a devastating effect on his family. John lost his niece, Mbula, to rabies when she was just 30 years old. She loved keeping dogs and herding livestock, but one day was bitten by a rabid dog.
Mbula could not get the vital treatment she needed.
Mbula had three children, and after she passed away John became their guardian. But John is elderly and he cannot afford to send the children to school, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.
Just a few months after Mbula’s death, John’s granddaughter, Linnet, was bitten by their puppy. John felt there was no other choice but to beat the puppy to death. The puppy had never left the compound and had not been around other dogs. So rabies was unlikely. But after what happened to his niece, he felt there was no choice.
John told Emily he is happy that Makueni’s dogs are set to be vaccinated against rabies, so that this does not happen again. And when the vaccination team arrive in his local part of Makueni, he’ll be the first in line to get his new puppies vaccinated.
A young boy brings his puppy to be vaccinated. World Animal Protection is working alongside the Kenyan government to establish a pilot vaccination program in Makueni County, Kenya.