Dr Bhutia was awarded the honour for his work on rabies prevention in Sikkim, India.
Dr Thinlay Bhutia has been awarded the WSAVA's One Health Award for 2021, for his career-long work towards the creation of a rabies-controlled state in Sikkim, northeast India.
The award, presented by the WSAVA's One Health Committee (OHC), is given annually to an organisation or individual that has promoted an aspect of One Health relevant to companion animals.
Dr Bhutia, who began his career as a state veterinary officer in India, started working in rabies control in his home state of Sikkim as program coordinator of the first government-sanctioned state-wide program, the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) Division.
Collaborating with Vets Beyond Borders and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, Dr Bhutia assisted in ending the mass shooting of stray dogs, and introduced sterilization as a more effective approach to managing populations of stray dogs.
Dr Michael Lappin, 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.”
Alongside his work introducing humane approaches to managing dog populations, Dr Bhutia has set up community education programs to help people in the local area understand how to behave around dogs to reduce biting risks. He also runs a state-wide vaccination program.
A direct result of Dr Bhutia's work, the state of Sikkim has been almost entirely free of human rabies deaths since 2006.
Receiving his award at WSAVA's global community congress, Dr Bhutia said: “When one door closes, another opens.
“At the time of the announcement of this award, I was feeling despondent with post-Covid illness complications. Suddenly, when I heard the news, my symptoms subsided. Thank you WSAVA for bestowing this award in the nick of time.
“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.
“It is clear that the veterinary workforce acts as a ‘first line of defence’ 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.”