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September 27, 2009

All Animals Web Extra: Jack Reece

Veterinarian Jack Reece works for one of the most successful street dog sterilization programs in India

From All Animals magazine, September/October 2009

Jack Reece in surgery

The HSUS

In our September/October 2009 issue of All Animals magazine, we profile the work of several extraordinary groups—many of them all-volunteer—working around the world to help street dogs and other animals.

Veterinarian Jack Reece went to India in 1998 for a six-month volunteer stint. The work was difficult and the northern plains climate “jolly hot and jolly cold,” but the hardest moment came when it was time for him to return to private practice in England.

While the life of a vet in a country with an estimated 30 million street dogs “can be exasperating, frustrating, so aggravating you just want to disappear down a hole at times,” he says, “it’s also infinitely fascinating, and you can do so much more good here.”

Eleven years after his initial exposure to that world, he now calls India home.

From strychnine poisoning to trap-neuter-return

When Reece started as a volunteer with Jaipur-based Help in Suffering, the group had just launched an animal birth control pilot program based on guidelines from the World Health Organization and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The goal was to create a stable, rabies-free population of street dogs in the city through trap-neuter-return—something that decades of the local government’s strychnine poisoning methods had failed to accomplish.

About 70 percent of female dogs in Jaipur are now spayed, and for the past seven years, the number of human rabies cases reported at the local hospital has dropped from 10 a year to zero.

Rabies-free street dogs in Jaipur a model for others to follow

When the results of the program were published in a major veterinary journal, more people started looking at the connection between street dog sterilization and the absence of human rabies cases, says Andrew Rowan, president and CEO of Humane Society International. It gave animal protectionists in India and around the world the solid data needed to interest their governments in similar programs.

With funding from HSI, the Jaipur program expanded to the city’s suburbs and Kalimpong, a town in the lower Himalayas, and added a training component.

Under the oversight of Reece and veterinarian Sunil Chawla, Help in Suffering teaches vets, shelter managers, dog catchers, and representatives of nonprofits from India and other countries how to launch similar projects and how to improve animal welfare and veterinary standards in existing projects.

Now widely respected in the Jaipur community, Help in Suffering has also improved the overall human-canine relationship.

“Most people will tell you that the dogs in Jaipur look better than the dogs in other cities,” says Reece—a point of pride for him as well as for many locals.

“Everyone knows what we do,” he adds, “including the dogs.”

Read Slum Dogs online version.

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