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App could help fight rabies, study finds
The app was tested at a vaccination clinic in Tanzania.
The technology can identify dogs that have been vaccinated.

A new mobile phone app has been developed by researchers at Washington State University (WSU) to help rabies vaccination teams identify individual dogs.

The app’s algorithm identifies key features of a dog’s face and compares them to images of other dogs in its archive, highlighting possible matches. The user can then decide if it is a match.

Once the dog has been identified, the team can see whether it has previously been vaccinated.

Felix Lankester, the principal investigator of the study, said: “When carrying out mass vaccination, one of the major problems that we face is trying to identify which dogs have and haven’t been vaccinated. For example, microchips are too expensive to use at the scales needed to eliminate rabies, and collars can be removed by owners.”

The researchers tested the app at a rabies vaccination clinic in Tanzania. The app helped users correctly identify 76.2 per cent of vaccinated dogs and 98.9 per cent of unvaccinated dogs in nearby villages, after substandard images and incorrect information had been removed from the database.

Approximately 60,000 people die of rabies globally each year, mostly due to dog bites. To achieve herd immunity and significantly reduce transmission of the virus, around 40 per cent of dogs in an area need to be vaccinated.

The app has been created in collaboration with PiP My Pet, a Canadian company which has previously created a facial recognition app to help find lost pets. The developers are now looking for funding to help them improve the app.

Dr Lankester added: “We developed this app to see if facial recognition might work, and it’s showing great promise in helping us to achieve that goal.”

The research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Image © Shutterstock

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."