Post-tsunami anti-rabies drive shifts gears to sterilization
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka–Fear that a rabies panic might fuel a
dog massacre subsided in coastal Sri Lanka as January 2005 rolled
into February, allowing the emergency vaccination drive initiated on
December 31, 2004 by volunteer disaster relief coordinator Robert
Blumberg to roll over into a mobile sterilization campaign.
“Sterilization is becoming a crucial issue, with many
animals coming into heat soon and, especially on the east coast,
crowded into refugee camps,” Blumberg said.
“The vaccination campaign put 12,000 red ‘I’ve been
vaccinated’ collars out into the field to calm any hysteria over
rabies that could have led to mass killings, and allowed us to
observe first-hand the conditions for the animals after the December
26 tsunami,” Blumberg explained. “We are now going back to a number
of those initial areas and doing the saturation vaccinating necessary
to ensure having done the 70-75% required for effective rabies
“Animal People was our first sponsor, only days after the
waves struck, making it possible to quickly field initial assessment,
vaccination, and treatment teams,” Blumberg acknowledged. Blumberg
also thanked the Best Friends Animal Society, Noah’s Wish, Marchig
Animal Welfare Trust, and the Association of Veterinarians for
Animal Rights for substantial contributions.
While the vaccinations were done primarily by the private
veterinary firm Pets V Care, mobile surgical hospitals staffed by
teams from the Bali Street Dog Foundation in Indonesia and the Humane
Society International division of the Humane Society of the U.S.
began doing sterilization at Arugam Bay in early February, where the
threat of dog massacres loomed largest.
About 500 dogs had been sterilized by Valentine’s Day, Blumberg said.
After 10 days at Arugam Bay the HSI team “moved to a nearby area on
the east coast and continues to sterilize about 40 animals per day,
both dogs and cats,” Blumberg recounted.
Animal People funded the participation of veterinarians from
several Animal Birth Control programs in India, who learned
small-incision surgery and prevention of surgical site infections
from the HSI vets. The HSI team leader, Eric Davis, DVM, formerly
taught high-volume, same-day-release sterilization technique at the
University of Tennessee veterinary school.
“Vier Pfoten, of Austria,” whose surgical team arrived a
few days after the HSI team, “began operations in the town of
Habaradua, near Galle,” Blumberg said. “Austrians are helping to
rebuild this town. Vier Pfoten established a vet clinic, began
vaccinating, and introduced a mass sterilization program.”
Later the Vier Pfoten team split into two teams, in order to
begin field operations on the east coast in coordination with HSI,
and a Japanese veterinary team arrived to help.
“Both HSI and Vier Pfoten are integrating local vets into
their teams, and are teaching vet students to their techniques,”
“There has been some local confusion over several aspects of
these activities,” Blumberg noted. “One is that the sterilizations
and rabies vaccinations are being done at the same time. This is the
norm in most of the world, but is apparently not customary in Sri
Lanka. There has also been concern,” Blumberg said, “about the
same-day-release sterilization methods used by HSI and Vier Pfoten.
“These are not ‘business-as-usual’ sterilizations,” Blumberg
explained. “They are done with a high degree of asepsis. Special
surgical techniques are used, including a small incision with three
layers of suturing, so that there are no sutures exposed, with a
fourth layer of Superglue –not to add strength, but to seal the
“There also is need to demonstrate that field surgery can and
should be done with the same standards of asepsis as clinic
conditions,” Blumberg continued. “Long-acting antibiotics are
given, as are analgesics for pain. Both HSI and Vier Pfoten are
welcoming observers, including other vets and university students.
“These methods have been used by the HSUS/HSI team, Vier
Pfoten, and the Bali Street Dog Project to do thousands and
thousands of animals over the last several years. We hope that
people will come and see for themselves that these methods work, as
it means that sterilizations can be done without the logistic
complexities of kenneling,” Blumberg invited.
WSPA & IFAW
The vaccination campaign was by mid-February wrapping up.
“The World Society for the Protection of Animals has ended
its vaccination drive near Galle,” having also vaccnated about
12,000 dogs plus about 650 cats, according to WSPA director general
Peter Davies, “and is putting longer term programs into place. The
International Fund for Animal Welfare has completed several
additional days of vaccination,” Blumberg said. Starting two weeks
after the first teams Blumberg fielded, and staffed mainly by
students, the IFAW team worked at a markedly slower pace.
Funded by WSPA and the Royal SPCA of Britain, the Kandy
Association for Community Protection Through Animal Welfare also
organized vaccination and sterilization efforts.
KACPAW president Champa Fernando anticipated that “Two
WSPA-funded mobile clinics will begin operating in April 2005, on
the east coast from Trinocmalee downward, and on the south coast
from Kalutara downward. These clinics will con centrate on
sterilization, vaccination, and awareness, and will run for two
years. KACPAW will manage the east coast mobile clinic and Bluepaw
[another Sri Lankan animal welfare organization] will manage the
“These programs will be coordinated in many areas with the
government veterinary surgeons,” Fernando promised. “A national
committee appointed by the minister of health is developing a plan to
eradicate rabies [from Sri Lanka] through humane methods. KACPAW will
have at least 15 government vets from the Central Province trained
“A rabies-free nation could mean, ideally, no more
suffering of our dogs,” Fernando hoped. “Sri Lanka could become yet
another rabies-free island nation.”
Sri Lanka Veterinary Association chief executive Tissa
Jayatileka Hony on February 1 announced a relief collection to assist
the survivors of three veterinarians who were killed by the tsunami,
along with two vets who lost their clinics and one who lost a mobile
Peradeniya University veterinary faculty Upul and Ramani
Ariyaratne were killed along with their two children at Balapitiya,
while A.E. Jayaweera and his son died at Kalkudah Beach, along with
10 members of their extended family. Jayaweera’s wife and
eight-year-old daughter “escaped miraculously,” Hony said.