Rabies kills 55,000 people every year mainly in Africa and Asia, despite being entirely preventable through vaccination and prompt medical treatment. Spurred on by this statistic, the first ever World Rabies Day will be held on September 8 in order to raise global awareness of rabies prevention and control. The driving force behind the initiative is the Alliance for Rabies Control, a charity formed in 2006 by a group of researchers and professionals committed to eradicating rabies. To mark the event, The Veterinary Record has commissioned experts in the field of rabies control to discuss what veterinary surgeons have done and can do to tackle this devastating disease. The message that emerges is that veterinary surgeons, in close collaboration with the medical profession, have a vital role to play. In the first article, Deborah Briggs from Kansas State University and Cathleen Hanlon from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the usa describe the impetus behind the day, who is supporting it and what it hopes to achieve. Articles on the following pages describe other veterinary contributions to this field.