Vets battle against rabies

Sara Jones operates on a dog in a disused maggot farm in India
Sara Jones operates on a dog in a disused maggot farm in India

Two vets from the Fylde coast travelled to India to help vaccinate and neuter thousands of dogs as part of a campaign to eradicate rabies.

Sara Jones and Hiren Shah – both vets at Myerscough Veterinary Group – spent a fortnight at a disused maggot farm in Goa, assisting in efforts to prevent 20,000 dogs from contracting rabies in just six months.

The project is led by Mission Rabies, a UK-based charity set up by Luke Gamble of the TV show Vet Adventures.

It aims to eradicate the fatal disease across the world country by country. But to do so in India would mean vaccinating more than two-thirds of all dogs.

Former housemates Sara and Hiren were set gruelling targets of neutering up to 40 animals every day.

Young boys from local communities employed by the charity rounded up street dogs every morning and the vets than carried out the procedures before administering pain relief and antibiotics where necessary.

Once they had recovered, the dogs were then released back to where they were caught to avoid conflict among different packs.

Sadly Sara and Hiren had to put down three dogs which were already succumbing to the disease.

The pair also helped to educate and train the communities living alongside rabies about how to manage the disease.

The mission has so far trained 56 vets and reached out to more than 183,000 children.

Sara, 27, who is based at the company’s St Annes surgery on Clifton Drive South, said she had found out about the charity through her work in India with another charity, Karuna, two years ago.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing experience,” she said.

“We have worked with so many dedicated and like-minded people.

“The best part of it was seeing how people responded to us and changed the way they thought about dogs. At first they saw them as a threat and a nuisance but I think we helped them to realise you can have that bond with dogs.

“It was distressing seeing some dogs looking like zombies and hearing how some people stoned them to death.

“But through our work we showed them you can think of them without fear and have a respect for life.

“It was a hugely rewarding trip.”

Sara returned to India a few weeks later to assist in yet another vaccine drive in Ranchi, in the north-east, and will be visiting Malawi in May for another fortnight as the mission begins to tackle the disease in Africa.

Every day 100 children across the globe die of rabies and the deadly virus is usually spread by dog bite.

While a post-exposure vaccination can save lives, the cost and a lack of education means many victims do not access medical care.

Dogs are feared and are 
often beaten or even killed by poisoning or stoning.