Rabies isn’t common, but it’s alive and well in Richmond County.
North Carolina rabies law requires that all owned dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. One shot is not enough; rabies vaccination must be kept current.
Gandy Animal Hospital is holding one of their quarterly rabies clinics today from 9:30 a.m. till noon, and then from 3:15 to 6:30 p.m.
Veterinarian Ralph Souder said he usually has between 50 and 100 rabies shots a day during his quarterly clinics. The shots cost $6. Thursday was the first day of the two-day rabies shot clinic.
Souder said pet owners can identify rabies if their pet behaves abnormally, but by then it’s too late.
“A mean dog will get nice, and a nice dog will get mean. A raccoon sitting in your yard in the middle of the day and not fleeing when your dog barks is a bad sign,” explained Souder.
Souder said the changes in the animal’s behavior stems from the rabies virus causing the neurons in the brain to deteriorate quickly, leaving the animal with no recognition of anything familiar.
According to NC Public Health’s Epidemiology, vaccinating your pets can protect both them and you. This year there have been four rabies attacks in Richmond and surrounding counties. Epidemiology records indicate that one raccoon in Richmond County, one raccoon in Anson county, and two foxes and one skunk in Moore County all tested positive for rabies.
According to NC Public Health’s Epidemiology, cats are the domestic animal that is most commonly infected with rabies, especially cats that roam around outside, because these may prey on an animal with rabies.
According to Richmond County Environmental Health Supervisor Michael A. Norton, more often than not, animals exhibiting strange or aggressive behavior that are shot or taken away and tested on the pretenses of rabies usually test negative. Occasionally one will test positive.
“Last year, Richmond County had one rabid raccoon and one rabid fox. In 2008 we had one rabid house cat, and one rabid bobcat. The bobcat was in someone’s yard, attacking a beagle. The owner shot the bobcat. We took it’s head off for testing and it came back positive,” said Norton.
In North Carolina, the most common type of rabies is a raccoon variant, found in not only raccoons, but in skunks, red and gray foxes, coyotes, wolves, groundhogs and beavers, according to Epidemiology. Any mammal can become infected with rabies.
Norton said the Wildlife Commission asks Animal Control not to trap wildlife, and to stick to domestic animals; but the situation begins to conflict and overlap when a wild animal becomes a threat of rabies, and is attacking people or domestic pets.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 997-3111 ext. 15.