October 9, 2012

Editorial: Protection from rabies

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.

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