As if life was not tough enough for stray dogs, they're overwhelmingly rabies' most frequent victim.
Stray dogs fight to survive every day. They must dodge traffic, scavenge for food, drink dirty water and often deal with cruel humans. It's made them tough, but the rabies virus is tougher – it's fatal.
Stray dogs are unfairly at the centre of the world's deadliest disease. Their social nature makes them the perfect transmitters of the virus, to both animals and people. Dogs are pack animals with complex and close social structures, meaning that when the rabies virus is introduced into the picture it progressively spreads through the population. In addition to this, the close bond between dogs and people means that the rabies virus is not only circulating on the streets, but it is often inadvertently welcomed into the family home through their canine companion incubating the disease like a ticking bomb.
It means that many stray and owned dogs, just like the people around them, live under constant threat of rabies. A simple bite – or even a lick – from an infected dog can devastate an entire family of dogs. Here, on the streets, where these dogs survive in packs, rabies capitalises on close social interaction, to devastating effect.
But getting rid of the strays isn't the answer. Strays aren't just abandoned dogs. In many places, they’re indigenous to the village lanes or city streets which they roam and the majority of roaming dogs are often in fact owned. They're a natural part of the landscape, and they play a role in communities as companions and security alarms, keeping strangers away. We must protect them and keep them healthy to ultimately protect the people closest to them.
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