Our work to eliminate rabies

Our goal is to eliminate rabies and save countless dog and human lives.

Mission rabies staff in yellow polo t-shirt holding a puppy with a green mark on its head to indicate successful rabies vaccination.
28th September 2023

We’re working towards the day when all dogs can live happy, healthy lives. This work takes us all around the world to wherever our help is most needed.

Each year, millions of dogs around the world are needlessly and inhumanely killed due to the fear associated with rabies, a fatal disease which claims more than 59,000 human lives a year.  

Sadly, dogs pose the greatest risk of human deaths due to rabies, as dog bites account for 99% of rabies cases in humans. Once symptoms appear, the disease is fatal; there is no treatment or cure.

The good news is human rabies deaths are 100% preventable. The most effective way to eliminate the disease is through vaccination of dogs, as it stops transmission at the source. As well as saving lives, vaccination removes the fear of rabies and improves people’s attitudes toward dogs, helping communities live more happily alongside them.

We’re determined to be part of the solution. That’s why we work with partners around the world to engage with communities and deploy rabies vaccination programmes. Our goal is to eliminate rabies and save countless dog and human lives. With your support, and alongside our incredible partners and volunteers, we won’t stop working until rabies is gone for good.   

About rabies

What is rabies?  

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It affects both animals and humans. The symptoms can include restlessness, aimless wandering, lethargy, drooling saliva, exaggerated reaction to sounds, and aggression. It can lead to paralysis and will always be fatal.  

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies is transmitted through infected saliva. The main way it is caught is from a bite by an infected dog.  99% of all cases are caused by dog bites.  

How serious is rabies?  

Once symptoms appear, rabies is 100% fatal. Rabies is not currently present in the UK, but tragically it still kills 59,000 people every year around the world. The disease results in the death of a person (often a child) every nine minutes and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dogs each year.  

What can we do about rabies?  

Rabies is 100% preventable through vaccination. That’s why it’s also important that dogs are vaccinated before they travel in or out of the UK, to prevent the disease ever returning here. In countries that still have rabies, studies have proven that mass dog vaccination programmes are key to controlling the disease. The key is to vaccinate 70% of any dog population in at risk communities, which is the coverage needed to eliminate the disease in dogs and prevent human deaths. 

How we’re working to eliminate rabies  

We’ve supported the vaccination of over two million dogs against rabies, working with partner organisations on the ground in affected countries. In 2023, we welcomed Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and its Mission Rabies project into the Dogs Trust family.  Together, we will transform the welfare standards for dogs and other animals worldwide through collaboration on a range of activity, including mass vaccination, spay and neuter projects, disaster response, vet training, and community outreach.

"Our pledge is to halve the number of human rabies deaths in the next five years and protect hundreds of thousands of dogs. We can do this as part of Dogs Trust. The key to eliminating rabies is breaking the cycle of transmission by vaccinating 70% of the dogs in any given project site. We have to do this for a few years, build up concurrent surveillance and education and then we can create rabies-controlled zones. We know it works. There have been no human rabies deaths in Goa for the last five years – a direct result of our Mission Rabies project launched there in 2015 to make Goa the first rabies-controlled state in India."

Luke Gamble, Founder and Chief Executive of WVS

Vaccination drives


 Hear from our CEO, Owen Sharp, about his time in Mumbai to support a rabies vaccination drive in April 2024.


Cambodia, in Southeast Asia, has one of the highest rabies death rates per capita of any country in the world. In the capital, Phnom Penh, one child dies from rabies every week.    

In May 2023, WVS and Dogs Trust commenced the largest ever rabies vaccination drive in Cambodia. The drive vaccinated more than 75,000 dogs over a ten-day period in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. The project is now evolving into a bigger campaign, to save both children and dogs from this horrifying disease.  

 To vaccinate lots of dogs in a short space of time, volunteers used the WVS app to track their progress and collect data on each dog. The volunteer teams made their way through districts and surrounding villages of Phnom Penh, going door-to-door and vaccinating owned dogs, as well as any free roaming dogs that they came across along the way.    

Vets and vet students carried out the actual vaccinations, while the other team members recorded the data. After 10 days, the groups in Cambodia managed to successfully vaccinate over 75,000 dogs.

What’s next? 

Vaccination is the most effective long-term way to stop rabies and prevent dog and human deaths, so projects like this are crucial in the fight against the disease. We’re determined to be part of the solution. With your support, and alongside our incredible partners and volunteers, we won’t stop working until rabies is gone for good.   

Thank you to our partners, funders and supporters around the world for supporting our work towards eradicating this disease.   

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