Free Rabies Vaccines for Some Rescue Horses

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health plans to donate 7,250 doses of EquiRab rabies vaccine to the Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign (UHVRC) in honor of World Rabies Day. The donated vaccines were pledged to 150 UHVRC equine rescue and retirement facilities across the country, helping to protect the thousands of horses in their care from contracting the fatal disease.

World Rabies Day, held annually Sept. 28, was created to increase awareness of rabies and encourage animal vaccination in order to prevent human rabies cases worldwide. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health has been a major supporter of World Rabies Day by donating to the Afya Serengeti project. Since 2003, Intervet/Schering-Plough has donated more than 900,000 doses of canine rabies vaccines to vaccinate dogs in Tanzania.

The company will increase its support for the 2009 World Rabies Day by helping unwanted horses as well. With the donation of EquiRab to UHVRC, more than 7,000 unwanted horses will receive protection against the untreatable disease.

"Rabies is a preventable disease that people and their animals die from every year," said Cynthia Guitierrez, DVM, equine technical services veterinarian for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health. "World Rabies Day is a way of increasing awareness of the disease and promoting prevention through vaccinations. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is dedicated to protecting all horses against rabies, including those deemed unwanted."

Because rabies is a zoonotic disease--meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans--it carries significant public health significance. This is one reason why the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has identified rabies as a core vaccine, one that has been determined to exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and a low enough level of risk to justify vaccination in the majority of horses.

"Any human who comes into contact with a horse infected with rabies has the potential to contract rabies. This disease is a threat to horses and all of the people who care for them," Gutierrez said. "Annual vaccination is an easy way to protect your horse and all people in contact with the horse."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 cases of rabies in horses were confirmed in 2008 in the U.S. That is down from 42 in 2007 and 53 confirmed cases in 2006.

"We believe this decline is likely attributed to increased public awareness and vaccination," Gutierrez said.

The UHVRC, established by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health and AAEP, was designed to provide core vaccines for qualifying equine rescue and retirement facilities. In order to receive vaccines, facilities must submit an application and work with an AAEP-member veterinarian. Facilities also must have a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

"Our equine rescue is solely run on public donations," said Cheri White Owl, owner and manager of Oklahoma-based Horse Feathers Equine Rescue Inc. "The vaccines donated through the UHVRC will allow us to allocate more of our annual budget to provide necessary nutrition and emergency care for our rescued horses."

Since its inception in January 2009, UHVRC has provided core vaccines for more than 1,500 rescued horses. More information about the UHVRC.  

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