Owners urged to have pets vaccinated at upcoming clinics
Environmental Health Officer Jan Stephens has reported the first case this year of a rabid animal in the county. She announced the case Friday, March 16, a case that unfortunately led to the euthanization of a beloved pet.
According to Environmental Health reports, a family who lived in the Parker Road area took in a stray dog about six months ago, and a teenager in the family developed a bond with the dog. The family was unable to locate any owner of the dog. Stephens said the family told her they knew the dog needed rabies shots after they decided to keep it, but they hadn’t gotten around to having the vaccinations done.
Earlier this month, a raccoon wandered onto their property and fought with the dog. The teen-aged owner eventually killed the raccoon but not before the dog was bitten or scratched on its face, according to environmental health reports.
The raccoon was found to be rabid in a test last week by the state lab.
“There were no records [of any rabies shots], and this was a definite exposure––the teeth broke the skin of the dog,” Stephens said. “This is sad; the boy lost his dog and was heartbroken.”
Stephens said it is technically possible to quarantine a pet that has rabies exposure to see if it does develop symptoms, but it is difficult to meet the state’s “kennel within a kennel” requirements, which also limit human contact with the animal.
“Generally domestic animals require euthanizing if they haven’t had shots,” she said. “It is better to euthanize than to let the pet die a slow agonizing death and possibly infect others.”
While the precaution may seem rigorous, the dangers are very serious. Rabies is fatal to humans in almost all cases if it reaches the point where symptoms are felt.
“It is easily treatable when you treat immediately (with preventive shots),” she said. “But it is almost universally fatal if left until the symptoms show.”
Stephens urged all pet owners to have their animals vaccinated by participating in one of several clinics coming up to provide low-cost shots.
“Pets are your best protection,” she said. “But, only if they have had their shots. Unvaccinated pets are time bombs for the danger.”
Stephens said there doesn’t appear to be any increase of rabies cases here, but the cases do present more danger due to the density of the population. More people are in contact with more animals.
There was one recent case where a kitten that had lived around the Starbucks in Canton was later found to be rabid. It remains unknown how many people may have been exposed in that case. A press release on that cat stated, “The public is alerted to call their local environmental health office or medical care provider if they believe they may have been exposed to the kitten, described as being gray-striped with medium-length fur and located at the Starbucks at 1353 Riverstone Parkway in Canton during February 22 through March 1, 2012.”
Last year, Pickens had four confirmed rabid animals. These were one fox, one dog and two raccoons.
Over the years, tests have confirmed rabid animals from all areas of the county. They do occur in town just as often, and this is where the danger of mass exposure to people exists.
Previously it was thought rabies was more prevalent in the fall, but in recent years, cases have appeared at all times. Stephens said she worries that spring and early summer, when more people and their pets are in the woods, could pose a higher risk.
But, she reminds the public, shots are guaranteed protection for pets. “Shots offer 100 percent protection [for animals] after 30 days,” she said.
Stephens said, in the early 1990s, she tested one animal for rabies, and that fox was the first confirmed rabies case in Pickens County in 30 years. The following year, a rabid fox was confirmed in Dawson County, the first confirmed case there in several decades.
Stephens urges all pet owners to take advantage of two upcoming rabies clinics. The shots will be discounted at around $10 to $15 per animal, and drive-thru car treatments are offered.
Wayside Animal Clinic on Cove Road will offer a rabies clinic March 31st in the parking lot of its business neighbor, Community Bank at its Cove Road branch. (See ad on page 6A.)
April 7th, Dr. Ava Talmadge, of Amicalola Veterinary Services, will hold a rabies clinic at Hinton Milling on Highway 53.
“These are such a wonderful service, people need to take advantage of it,” she said.