Rabies is a growing danger in the North Country, and everyone with pets should take action to ensure their family is safe.
Already verified in Essex County, rabies is now creeping into lower Clinton County, and the threat to family pets has increased.
The strain of rabies found in bats is almost always present in the area. Health officials warn people not to touch bats and to have them tested if they are found in rooms with sleeping children.
But a different strain is infiltrating the North Country: terrestrial rabies, the kind found in raccoons, skunks and other animals. The reason this heightens concerns is that these animals are more likely to interact with cats or dogs than a bat is.
The best thing you can do to protect your pets and the rest of your family is vaccinate your animals against rabies. That goes for cats, dogs, ferrets and some livestock.
Skunks and raccoons have tested positive in Essex County and, just lately in Keeseville, which straddles Clinton and Essex counties. The skunk that was confirmed rabid in that village last week actually went into a pen containing three dogs and attacked them.
If pets get into a tussle with a rabid animal and they have been vaccinated, they only need a booster shot to assure they are safe.
But if they haven’t had rabies shots or those vaccinations aren’t up to date, there are only two options: euthanize the pet or quarantine it for six months.
A quarantine isn’t as easy as it may sound. The pet can be put up at a kennel, separated from the other animals — and its human family — for half a year, but that would be expensive. Or it can be quarantined at home, but that requires following strict rules and review by the local health department. It has to be completely separated from other animals — a logistical challenge in many homes — with minimal human interaction in order to reduce exposure. How sad for both the pet and its owners.
Until now, terrestrial rabies hadn’t been documented in Clinton County since 1996. Back then, it was a scary situation, with more than 100 rabies cases verified in 1995 and 1996.
Health Department spokeswoman Laurie Williams said they don’t want to panic people, but they do want them to listen up. The danger is real, and the best way to prevent it is by vaccinating your animals.
It won’t even cost you anything. Free clinics are being held, starting at 6 p.m., in fire stations in Morrisonville tonight, Keeseville on Wednesday, Ellenburg Depot on Thursday and Peru, Oct. 16; Chazy, Oct, 18; and Keeseville, Oct. 23.
For information or to report a suspected rabid animal, call the Clinton County Health Department at 565-4870, Essex County at 873-3500 or Franklin County at 481-1709.
Act now to safeguard your pets and people.