Monday, September 1, 2014

State-Wide Mass Anti-Rabies Vaccination (SMARV) Campaign underway

The most important annual event of the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) Programme "State-Wide Mass Anti-Rabies Vaccination (SMARV) Campaign" is underway from 18 August and will continue till 30 September 2014. This is the fifth such campaign which is being undertaken by SARAH in the pursuit of keeping Sikkim always a Rabies Free state.   This is an innovative and cost effective initiative taken by SARAH since 2010 for control and eradication of Rabies. Sikkim is the first state in India to initiate this campaign as per the recommendation made by World Health Organisation (WHO) on Rabies control. Recently only a few states like Goa, Haryana have started this campaign.
The SARAH Programme is a collaborative project between the Department of AH,LF&VS, Fondation Brigitte Bardot (FBB), Australia-based NGO, Vets Beyond Borders(VBB) and the Sikkim Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals(SSPCA). It has established a benchmark in Rabies and Dog population control in India. SARAH Programme was established primarily to cease the brutal and inhumane killing of dogs which was rampant during pre 2005.   During that time there was no such comprehensive scientific programme in Sikkim to mitigate the issue of stray dog population and Rabies deaths in Human and Animals. The dogs were brutally shot dead leading to numerous negative impacts on child psychology, Tourism etc. Enough was enough and finally the members of the SSPCA in association with Department of AH &VS, VBB and FBB developed this most important public health and animal welfare programme and since then there is no looking back.  Sikkim is the first state in India to have a separate dedicated programme under the Government which works for welfare of stray animals, control and prevention of Rabies, wild life conservation, on-training etc. 
Due to its concerted efforts, there hasn’t been a single case of Human Rabies since 2006 and no known case of Animal Rabies since 2010. It also led to other positive ramifications such as economic savings, savings in other resources such as manpower, medication, vaccines etc. There has been an overall improvement in animal welfare and public health. Many of our neighbours including West Bengal, Nepal and Bhutan are still experiencing horrendous Rabies deaths in both the human and animal population. Luckily in Sikkim due to timely intervention and positive steps taken by SARAH, no innocent human lives are lost, no cruel barbaric and mass shooting of dogs has to be performed instead more humane and effective mitigation measures have been established. At the same time, we also must not forget that Sikkim shares porous borders with these places and we must work relentlessly in order to keep Sikkim always Rabies free. 
During the previous campaign which was held in September-Oct 2013 more than 18,400 animals were vaccinated and numerous awareness programme on Rabies prevention, dog bite prevention and its management, and animal welfare laws were carried out. The campaign took almost 40 days of continuous rigorous work, for the SARAH team made an effort to visit every household throughout Sikkim. In East Sikkim every household in every village was visited and 80% vaccination was achieved. Even remote villages with no road access were visited and dogs vaccinated and dewormed.
This year the SARAH Division has again mobilized its veterinary teams in collaboration with the departmental staff of different veterinary centres. For each district 2-3 teams comprising SARAH and Departmental staffhave been deputed.  We will also be seeking help and cooperation from different agencies such as Police, Block Administration Centres (BACs) and Panchayats in their respective areas for effective implementation of the said programme. During this period, the SARAH Street Dog Hospital and Shelter will remain closed. No referrals shall be seen or treated at the centre but it will still continue to rescue and treat any street animals in distress.
The SARAH Division has constituted the following teams with a SARAH veterinary surgeon as Nodal Officer to facilitate the campaign:
1.Dr Thinlay N Bhutia-West and North District
2.Dr Diki Palmu –East District
3.Dr Shamsuddin Ahmed-South District.
For further information, please contact the nearest Veterinary centres. The camp for Gangtok and its surrounding areas has been fixed on 16th and 17th of September 2014 at SARAH Street Dog Hospital from 8 AM till 4 Pm.
During the campaign, the teams will be checking and verifying the pet registration card/license issued by the Dept of Animal Husbandry for each pet animal.  Under the Sikkim Stray Dog and Rabies Control Act 2000, it is mandatory to vaccinate pets against rabies each year and an offender is liable to fines and/or imprisonment if pets are not registered and duly vaccinated against rabies. Many pet owners do not bother to vaccinate their pets every year against rabies even though the next vaccination due date is written in the dog registration card.  Failure to vaccinate pets against rabies can lead to serious rabies incidents causing great public health and animal welfare issues and economic losses to the State. We appeal to the public to kindly cooperate with the team by bringing in their dogs and cats to the designated place. It is also expected that the good Samaritans will inform others of the need for the rabies vaccination and assist with the vaccination of stray animals where possible so that we can keep Sikkim a rabies free state and thus improve animal welfare and public health.
We have also come across many people who are reluctant to vaccinate their dogs because they think that a dog is a least important animal and has no value at all.This is wrong thinking, for the dog is a highly important and valued animal especially for the people living in villages. Most of the Sikkimese villages are contiguous to forest where there is always a threat from wild animals which are also potential source of disease like sylvatic rabies and also threat to livestock etc.Vaccinating your dog will cost you nothing compared to the savings and other positive ramifications.You have to simply make an effort to go to a vaccination camp and spend a half day where you can also learn many important things about welfare,ecology,importance of animals,dog bite prevention and many other related and beneficial topics.
Common Questions about the Mass Annual Rabies Vaccination Campaign for Dogs and Cats
Q1. What is Rabies?
Ans:  Rabies is a deadly disease for people and animals. It is a virus spread in the saliva of infected animals usually by bites.
Q2.  Why do we vaccinate dogs to control rabies in people?
Ans:  The dog is the main vector of rabies and 93% of rabies cases are associated with dog bites.  If we control rabies in dogs, then we can control rabies in people.
Q3.  At what age should my puppy be vaccinated for rabies?
ANs:  Puppies and kittens should be vaccinated for rabies from 8 weeks of age.  Pet puppies and kittens should receive a booster in 1 month. This is followed by a booster every year.
Q4.  Does my dog need to be vaccinated for rabies every year?
Ans:  YES.  Rabies is endemic in India and all dogs and cats should be vaccinated every year.
Q5.  Is the rabies vaccine the only vaccine my dog needs?
Ans:  NO.  Your dog also needs to be vaccinated with a C6 to prevent other diseases such as parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, kennel cough and leptospirosis.  A C6 vaccine is given by your veterinarian and is not given during the Mass Annual Rabies Vaccine Campaign.
Q6. What do I do if I get bitten by a dog?
Ans:  If you are bitten by a dog it is very important to immediately gently wash the wound using a detergent soap under running tap water for at least 10-15 minutes.  You should then seek medical treatment and post exposure prophylaxis may be given.
Q7.  When was the last human death from rabies in Sikkim?
Ans:  Sadly, one person died in 2006 from rabies in Sikkim.  This is the only death from rabies since the SARAH programme started.  But there have 18 deaths from rabies in Maharashta this year, 20 deaths in Chennai from rabies in the last 3 years, and 23 deaths in Andhra Pradesh.  There is no state-wide rabies control programme in Tamil Nadu or AP.
Q8.  What about rabies in wildlife?
Ans:  Foxes, jackals, mongoose can transmit rabies to dogs and livestock by biting if they are infected with the virus.  Rodents, squirrels, birds and bats do not transmit rabies in India, although bats are known to transmit rabies in the Americas. If your dog is vaccinated then it is very unlikely to develop rabies even if bitten by a rabid fox or jackal.
Q9.  Do I have to get my dog vaccinated for rabies every year?
Ans:  YES.  Annual anti-rabies vaccination of all dogs in Sikkim is required by the law.
Q10.  How do I find out where and when to take my dog for vaccination?
Ans:  You can ask your Panchayat or local Veterinary Officer or Incharge of your nearest Veterinary centre.


  1. with reference to Q no. 3 i would like to bring to the notice that the first vaccine should not be given to animals below age of 3 months due to maternal antibody and no booster is required after a month and if any booster dose is given than it should be given annually....This information i had asked once to one of the veterinary docter at my place who is the proffesor in vety college.

  2. Please confirm the answers to these question once since many mistakes have been observed...


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