The shadow of rabies in Sierra Leone

17 September 2018

With only four vets in the entire country and an overwhelming population of stray dogs, the welfare situation is serious. We're working towards humane solutions to the issues that cause fear, misunderstanding and a divide between a community and their dogs.

In Freetown, Sierra Leone, ten years of civil war followed by the Ebola epidemic have left a stray dog population on the verge of catastrophe. Locals estimate that up to 500,000 dogs roam the city, many abandoned, or made homeless by this compound crisis. 

The stray population is the densest in Africa. The number of roaming dogs continues to rise – and so too does the frequency of dog-bite incidents, and human deaths from rabies. Every dog represents a potential threat. Understandably, people are afraid.

Though in many places stray dogs are treated well by local communities, people for the most part just can’t afford to vaccinate and care for dogs properly. 

The welfare situation is very serious – with only four qualified vets in the entire country, Sierra Leone has virtually no capacity to deal with the needs of these animals, and the threat of disease is never far away.

Our team in Freetown were shocked to hear countless stories of people and animals killed by rabies, which is fatal if untreated.

“Urgent is an understatement. We need to go in, now.” Said Tennyson Williams, Africa Regional Director for World Animal Protection.

Dogs are starving, injured and sick – roaming in the streets they’re frequently knocked down by cars and hurt or killed.

A comprehensive solution

Our work in the region, in partnership with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society, is underway.  Our goal is nothing less than to eliminate rabies in the stray dog population of Sierra Leone – beginning with a pilot dog population management project in Freetown, focused on education, vaccination, and dog registration. 

Around the world, we've already provided more than a million rabies vaccinations to protect dogs. By working to ensure dogs aren’t a threat, we’ll help protect them from violence too – helping create a world where people and animals can live side by side peacefully again.

 

Around the world we've already provided more than a million rabies vaccinations to protect dogs.
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