Extending Compassion: The First Kagyu Monlam Animal Camp
For the first time, this year the Kagyu Monlam will be running a special veterinary camp which will provide skilled veterinary care for any animal in need. The vets will treat not just pets and domestic animals, but stray ones too. They will also focus on a street dog ABCAR programme [Animal Birth Control, Anti-Rabies].
Sponsored by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and with the assistance of the Sikkimese Government Department of Animal Husbandry, the camp will be staffed by a professional team of volunteer veterinarians. For two weeks, the camp will transform part of the huge Garchen kitchen tent into an operating theatre, and hold an outpatients surgery on the Kagyu Monlam land behind Tergar Monastery.
The camp will open on 22nd January, 2014. The last surgeries will be performed on 2nd February, but the camp will remain open for a further few days to ensure that animals receive any necessary follow-up care.
The problem of rabies in India
The World Health Organisation estimates that in India approximately 20,000 people each year die from rabies, and this is probably an underestimate as many deaths from rabies in rural or poverty-stricken areas are never recorded. On the Indian sub-continent, an ever-increasing stray dog population is the main reservoir for rabies in animals and humans—96% of human rabies cases are caused by dog bites. If somebody is bitten by a dog, there is effective treatment but as well as being very expensive so many people cannot afford it, it is often not available in poorer, rural areas.
As most of the victims of rabies are children living these poorer, rural areas, it is extremely important to implement anti-rabies programmes in such areas.
The recommended programme, which the team of vets will be introducing into the Bodhgaya area, is called ABCAR, and their aim will be to reduce the stray dog population in future and protect humans and animals from the danger of rabies.
The ABCAR programme
ABCAR stands for the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme and Anti-Rabies Vaccination Programme, which is a WHO (UN World Health Organisation) recommended programme for humane control of stray dogs and rabies transmission to humans.
The traditional method for controlling stray dogs and the spread of rabies in India has been catching and killing all street dogs, but this has proven to be unsuccessful all across the country.
Because the population of street dogs is dependent on available food and space in a given environment, if street dogs are poisoned, killed or otherwise removed, the remaining population multiplies rapidly to fill the empty biological niche. In addition, dogs from outside are able to infiltrate, bringing fresh infection.
The traditional method is ineffective. It is expensive for municipal corporations, involves the gruesome killing of community dogs on the streets in front of children and the local population, and, most importantly, causes unimaginable cruelty to the animals themselves who are either poisoned, beaten to death with sticks, or shot.
Under the ABCAR programme, stray dogs are caught humanely, spayed or neutered under anaesthetic in sterile conditions, given an anti-rabies vaccine, and then returned to the same area where they were captured. The programme is highly effective in controlling both the dog population and rabies. De-sexed and rabies vaccinated dogs will not breed but continue to protect their territories. This stops unvaccinated dogs from entering the area bringing the risk of rabies. It only takes 75% of the dog population to be desexed and vaccinated against rabies to break the rabies transmission cycle.
Wherever this programme has been introduced in India, the number of rabies cases has plummeted dramatically, and, in some instances, been reduced to zero.