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.
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