Background: Rabies is a neglected disease despite being responsible for more human deaths than any other zoonosis. A lack of adequate human and dog surveillance, resulting in low prioritization, is often blamed for this paradox. Estimation methods are often employed to describe the rabies burden when surveillance data are not available, however these figures are rarely based on country-specific data. Methods: In 2013 a knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey was conducted in Uganda to understand dog population, rabies vaccination, and human rabies risk factors and improve in-country and regional rabies burden estimates. Poisson and multi-level logistic regression techniques were conducted to estimate the total dog population and vaccination coverage. Results: Twenty-four villages were selected, of which 798 households completed the survey, representing 4 375 people. Dog owning households represented 12.9% of the population, for which 175 dogs were owned (25 people per dog). A history of vaccination was reported in 55.6% of owned dogs. Poverty and human population density highly correlated with dog ownership, and when accounted for in multi-level regression models, the human to dog ratio fell to 47:1 and the estimated national canine-rabies vaccination coverage fell to 36.1%. This study estimates there are 729 486 owned dogs in Uganda (95% CI: 719 919 - 739 053). Ten percent of survey respondents provided care to dogs they did not own, however unowned dog populations were not enumerated in this estimate. 89.8% of Uganda's human population was estimated to reside in a community that can support enzootic canine rabies transmission. Conclusions: This study is the first to comprehensively evaluate the effect of poverty on dog ownership in Africa. These results indicate that describing a dog population may not be as simple as applying a human: dog ratio, and factors such as poverty are likely to heavily influence dog ownership and vaccination coverage. These modelled estimates should be confirmed through further field studies, however, if validated, canine rabies elimination through mass vaccination may not be as difficult as previously considered in Uganda. Data derived from this study should be considered to improve models for estimating the in-country and regional rabies burden.
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© 2017 The Author(s).