5.1.2.4. What kind of dogs are present in the target area/country?

For effective vaccination campaigns to be organized in an area it is important to first know at least a rough estimate of the size of the dog population (see section 5.4.1) and the structure of the dog population in terms of their accessibility. The accessibility of dogs will have an impact on your vaccination strategy. Remember that the most important dogs to vaccinate (those dogs which present the highest risk for rabies transmission, generally the free-roaming dogs) may not be those most accessible to passive methods, such as fixed point vaccination.

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Accessibility of dog populations can be characterizing by two key criteria: ownership status and confinement status. Ownership status is often categorized as: owned dog, community dog, and unowned dogs. Confinement status is often categorized as: always confined, semi-confined, and free-roaming. Characterizing a dog population by the combination of these criteria (ie owned and free roaming) can help determine the most appropriate method(s) of vaccination to achieve adequate campaign coverage. See here for more details. For example, large populations of owned, free-roaming dogs may not be accessible to traditional fixed-point parenteral vaccination.

In almost all canine rabies endemic settings, a combination of community-based surveys (see example here) and dog enumeration surveys (see here) are necessary to appropriately characterize the dog population. Oftentimes understanding the ownership and confinement characteristics of the population can help determine appropriate enumeration methods. Enumeration methods that involve counting dogs on the streets are most appropriate when there are large proportions of free-roaming dogs. In communities where most dogs are confined then household surveys may be more appropriate.

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After characterizing the dog population, the proportion of accessible and inaccessible dogs for different vaccination strategies can be determined (see second Table here). Typically, dog populations that are unowned and free roaming (abandoned/lost owned dogs and dogs born as unowned roaming dogs) will be inaccessible to traditional/passive vaccination methods (fixed point campaigns) and will require more active vaccination practices. Dogs that are owned and frequently handled will be more accessible to traditional by passive vaccination methods.

In some cultures, dogs are not handled, and even owners cannot easily bring or constrain them for vaccination. Here methods to catch dogs, generally using nets will be needed to vaccinate them parenterally, or oral vaccination could be considered. Note that dogs that are seen roaming on public property may not necessarily be unowned. In many countries, the majority of roaming dogs do have owners, but they are allowed to roam freely on public property for some of the day and night. There may also be a population of community dogs that do not have one single reference household but are provided some level of care by several members of the local community.

Information on free roaming dogs is important because they may not be accessed easily, hence strategies other than parenteral vaccination may be necessary (oral vaccines). Read here for more details about available vaccination strategies.

WSPA = World Society for the Protection of Animals (now World Animal Protection)




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