Nonsurgical animal sterilization: The potential to control pet overpopulation—and save human lives
The mission of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs is to humanely control cat and dog populations worldwide by expediting the successful introduction of methods to nonsurgically sterilize dogs and cats and by supporting the distribution and promotion of these products. This initiative has gotten a huge boost from the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology. With a $25 million prize and $50 million in grant funding, interest in the search for a nonsurgical sterilant has never been greater.
While it is noble to want to humanely control pet overpopulation, I see another benefit of developing a nonsurgical sterilant: It has the potential to save human lives, as well. In India, for instance, where it is estimated that there are 30 million unowned dogs, the dog is the principal reservoir of rabies. The Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India estimates that more than 20,000 people die annually of rabies there—the vast majority of whom are victims of dog bites.1 And according to the World Health Organization, many of these fatalities are children under the age of 15.2 In the September 2006 issue of The Veterinary Record, researchers reported on a project in Jaipur, India, to surgically sterilize and vaccinate community dogs against rabies.3 Throughout the eight years of the study, almost 25,000 dogs were sterilized. During that time, the number of unowned dogs in the community decreased by almost one-third. But more importantly, the incidence of human rabies decreased to zero, while this incidence increased in surrounding areas. This report is the first scientific evidence that population control, combined with rabies vaccination, can save human lives. Imagine what we could do by combining an injectable sterilant with the rabies vaccine.
To that end, the ACC&D is hosting the 4th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control, April 8-10, 2010, in Dallas, Texas, where Dr. Chuck Rupprecht of the CDC will discuss the role of nonsurgical sterilization in rabies prevention.We have made remarkable advances in the pet overpopulation problem in the United States over the past 20 years. Yet animals are still euthanized every day in shelters. The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs wants to put an end to this. I submit that while that would be a wonderful result of developing a nonsurgical sterilant, an even greater benefit would be in saving human lives in countries that haven't even begun to tackle the dog and cat overpopulation problem. By linking nonsurgical sterilization of animals to saving human lives in developing countries, we would surely be able to save animal lives there as well.
Dr. G. Robert Weedon teaches epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is vice-chairman of the Board of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs and is the Veterinary Outreach Coordinator for the Alliance for Rabies Control as well as a member of its Technical Advisory Committee.
1. The Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India. Home page. Available at: http://rabies.org.in/. Accessed Dec 10, 2009.
2. The World Health Organization. Rabies in humans. Available at: http://www.who.int/rabies/human/en/. Accessed Dec 10, 2009.
3. Reece, JF, Chawla SK. Control of rabies in Jaipur, India, by the sterilisation and vaccination of neighbourhood dogs. Vet Rec 2006; 159(12):379-383.