Friday, June 14, 2013

Mission rabies: vets help save lives

Dr Ian Battersby, of Davies Veterinary Specialists in Hertfordshire, is on a mission to
fight rabies.
Ian Battersby is a UK based small animal medicine specialist, father and multi-tasker who will be visiting India in September to vaccinate dogs against rabies as part of the project Mission Rabies. Rabies claims a staggering number of human and animal lives and is an absolutely merciless virus.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you based, what is your day job?

I am a small animal Internal medicine specialists and I worked at Davies Veterinary Specialists in Hertfordfordshire.

What inspired you to become a vet in the first place?

Seems like such a long time ago but if I am being honest the first time I saw a vet was on TV when I was 11 (Tales of James Herriot on BBC 1) . It is corny but it kind of went from there. [Ed - um, corny it may be, but I can relate...].

How did you become involved in Mission Rabies?

I have been friends with Luke (CEO of WVS) since our undergraduate days and I have always wanted to help him with one of his projects. Over the last few years with doing my residency, exams and starting a family I just didn’t have time. Luke approached me about getting involved last year.  It is such an amazing project, I was delighted to be able to find the time to help.

Can you tell us a bit about the fieldwork you plan to undertake?

The initial part of the mission is to vaccinate 50,000 dogs in targeted hotspots of rabies in the first month. Then over the following 3 years teams will be working at each of the hotspots to complete the neutering and vaccination work they aim is 2 million dogs.

vaccination puppies
Potential patients (okay, also an excuse to showcase some gorgeous puppies).

Why is it so important to vaccinate un-owned dogs against rabies?

There are studies in Tanzania and Sri Lanka showing the impact vaccination and neutering of feral dogs on rabies deaths in humans. In one study vaccinating 60-70% of dogs in the area reduced the bite incidence by 97% in 3 years. So when one child an hour is dying from rabies I know we can make a difference.

What are you seeking to achieve in your fieldwork?

In addition to the vaccinating and neutering work, there will also be training camps for local vets to improve their surgical skills at each area we are focusing on, local education programs on rabies and also outlining how to avoid getting bitten by dogs. It is also an aim to establish a rabies notification scheme with the help of the local government so we can get a more accurate idea of the scale of the problem in India and also it will allow us to assess the impact of what we are doing.  We will be working aside local Indian vets to achieve this and they will lead the project in each area with our assistance.

How can smallanimaltalk readers help?

Spread the word helps loads. Even just mentioning the project to potentially interested people helps. The more people know about it the more likely we will find  people who may then want to contribute by donation, fund raising  or even by get involved in one of the neutering training sessions at each hotspot over the next couple of years.

If you want to get involved and fund raise, donate or even help out on one of the fields stations go to

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

It is great feeling to finally get involved in a project like this rather than talking about it. So give why don’t you give it a go and get involved?