Rabies risk in owned and un-owned dogs of Sri Lanka

Rabies is an endemic disease in Sri Lanka and dogs are the main reservoir with wild animals playing a minor role in disease transmission. Therefore, controlling rabies among dogs via vaccination and sustainable dog population control programs is important for preventing and reducing rabies among the human population.

View preliminary results.

Vaccination target

Controlling rabies in dogs could be accomplished by maintaining herd immunity through the use of canine vaccines. The World Health Organisation guidelines for effective disease control stipulate that 70% or more of dogs in a population require vaccine coverage to control the disease this way.


However, maintaining a vaccine coverage of 70%, is reliant upon quality data regarding the size and dynamics of the local dog populations. At this time these data are not available in Sri Lanka.


This project will systematically estimate the size of the dog population in Sri Lanka, including dogs associated with houses who are not allowed to roam freely and free-roaming dogs (owned and unowned). The knowledge, attitudes and practices of dog owners with respect to rabies will also be assessed using KAP survey methodology.

Intended outcomes

Reliable data on the owned and un-owned dog population of Sri Lanka, and information about knowledge, attitudes and rabies control practices of dog owners will be used to design an integrated program of effective and sustainable control strategies that will aim to eliminate rabies from the country through a One-Health approach.


  • To estimate the total owned and un-owned dog population in 45 areas of Sri Lanka.
  • To evaluate knowledge, attitudes and practices of dogs owners in relation to rabies control.
  • To review current policies and practices for rabies control.
  • To recommend interventions to enhance effectiveness of rabies control policies.

Study design

  • A cross-sectional survey will be carried out for three months that will cover the whole country.
  • Representative sampling will be based on human population density, and dog census and KAP data will be collected from a total of 3150 households.
  • Free-roaming dogs will be marked with coloured spray and/or photographed and counted along the transect as the survey team move between 35 houses in each area. Repeat counts will be made along the same transect on the following two evenings.
  • Mark-recapture algorithms will be used to estimate the free-roaming dog populations in these areas.