Skip to main contentMenu
Featured Article - 29 January 2020

How communities play the main role in making Dharamsala rabies-free

Dharamsala Animal Rescue were the awardee in the Regional category (ARACON) for the 2019 World Rabies Day Awards. View their profile and statement on receiving the award here.

Dharamsala (India) is a hillside station known best as the place the Dalai Lama resides. One would think that this would mean  there is no human/stray dog conflict, but there is. When I first traveled to Dharamsala as a tourist in 2008, I was stunned by the lack of concern for the welfare of the street animals. Dogs getting hit by cars and people walking by and tiny trembling puppies dying were normal sights. 

I knew I was only seeing the surface of the issues during my first trip to India, but still tried to find help for a specific dog. Luckily, I found volunteers administering treatments to street dogs and after sending the vet, many of the locals that used to pass by (and ignore) the sick dog on a daily basis, were all of a sudden concerned for his welfare. One family even decided to feed him and give him his daily medicines. I saw how my one action of finding help could actually change a community’s way of treating the stray dogs around them. It was because of this interaction that I founded Dharamsala Animal Rescue. I wanted to see if this action could be multiplied. We are happy to say that through being in the community and in the schools, teaching about compassion towards these dogs and alerting children and adults alike on post-bite protocol, we have witnessed significant behavior changes. 

Some of these changes are: 

  • More families and shop owners feeding local dogs 
  • More people calling us when a dog needs its annual vaccinations
  • More people becoming community caretakers, even fostering and finding homes for strays
  • More people learning to administer vaccinations and provide first aid
  • More people adopting strays as pets
  • More post-bite vaccinations and immunoglobulin at the government hospital 

Along with our education program in schools and our annual rabies quiz on social media, we know we also have to do the work to stabilize population through sterilization and mass vaccination for rabies.

In 2017, we began our first population surveys of a defined area of Dharamsala, making this our first targeted campaign against rabies. In 2019, we were awarded the World’s Rabies Day Award by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control for our work in India. With these funds, we implemented our 3rd annual population count and rabies vaccination camp in December 2019. Here is the mapped area we are working in. We are happy to say that 2 areas have reached 90% sterilization and 70% vaccination rate. The green areas were our priority and now the grey area comes next. 

In 2020 we are planning on hosting our first camp in October/November, targeting 1,000 dogs to be sterilized and vaccinated with assistance from local caretakers and feeders. We are hoping that by running camps, we can increase the effectiveness of our program to eliminate rabies and stabilize the population.  The camp will also include an education component for the community to increase compassion and promote safety. We will be looking for volunteers and funding for the camp. You can reach out to us here if you are interested in helping. 

By alerting the community that there is help, by educating the community on compassion and rabies prevention and by inspiring the community to be part of the solution, together we have a chance of making Dharamsala a better place for animals and humans. 


Article contributed by Ms Deb Jarrett, Founder of Dharamsala Animal Rescue.

The World Rabies Day Awards are brought to you by MSD Animal Health and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The Awards recognise community rabies champions from across the world. Find out more about the Awards and the 2019 Awardees.