Veterinarian awarded 2021 WSAVA One Health Award for work combatting rabies
Dr Thinlay N. Bhutia received this prestigious award in recognition of his pioneering work to combat rabies and helping to end the mass shooting of stray dogs in India.
Dr Thinlay N. Bhutia is this year’s recipient of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) One Health Award. This award is given by the WSAVA’s One Health Committee to an individual or organization that has promoted an aspect of One Health relevant to companion animals. Bhutia was chosen for his career-long effort in working towards the creation of a rabies-controlled state in his Himalayan home state of Sikkim, India.
Bhutia began his career as a state veterinary officer, working in rabies control as program coordinator of the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health Division (SARAH)—the first government-sanctioned, statewide program under the Department of Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Services, Government of Sikkim. This program advocates for the humane treatment of animals, with a focus rabies vaccination, sterilization, and community education as control measures. In this role, Bhutia helped to end the mass shooting of stray dogs, a common, ineffective practice employed for rabies control. He worked with Vets Beyond Borders, an Australian animal welfare charity, and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, a French animal welfare organization, to introduce sterilization as a more humane approach to managing dog populations.
In addition, Bhutia established community education programs to help local people better understand how to behave around dogs and reduce the risk of biting. In partnership with Vets Beyond Borders, Fondation Brigitte Bardot, and the SARAH program, Bhutia leads an annual statewide vaccination program. Thanks to his work, the state of Sikkim has been nearly free of human rabies deaths since 2006 with only 4 unconfirmed human cases from 2016 to 2018.
Commenting on the award, Michael Lappin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Chair of the WSAVA One Health Committee, said: “Dr Bhutia and the SARAH team have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals and his body of work in the region aligns perfectly with the spirit of the WSAVA One Health Award as it serves as an excellent example for others to follow in rabies endemic areas, worldwide.”
Bhutia received his award during this year’s global community congress, WSAVA2021, which took place virtually from November 13 to 15. He presented an Award Winner’s lecture on his work with the SARAH Program during Congress on Monday, November 13. The title of his lecture was: “Interdisciplinary Approach - An Effective Tool for Rabies Control in Sikkim, India.”
“The Award means a lot to us. The recognition of our work gives us a source of motivation to work more conscientiously and develop further. The One Health approach which was initiated as a concept should now be a movement across all sectors and the world," said Bhutia.
"It is clear that the veterinary workforce acts as a ‘first line of defense’ in the effective prevention, containment and eradication of invisible enemies, such as zoonotic diseases. In doing so, we play a fundamental role in the One Health model,” he continued.
Indian Veterinarian Awarded 2021 WSAVA One Health Award in Recognition of Pioneering Work to Combat Rabies. News Release. WSAVA. November 23, 2021.