Vaccinate pets, urges officials

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Crenshaw County health officials are urging area residents to vaccinate their pets for rabies after confirmation by the Alabama Department of Public Health that there have been four such cases found inside the county.

Dr. Alethea Gammage, the county's rabies officer, noted that in all cases rabid raccoons were near homes and pet dogs had physically handled three of the animals.

"Vaccination of domestic dogs and cats against rabies remains the best method of providing a protective buffer between wildlife rabies and humans," said Gammage. "Alabama state law requires that dogs and cats three months of age and older be vaccinated for rabies annually."

Rabies is a disease that can affect all warm-blooded mammals, including humans, and is universally fatal unless a specialized anti-rabies treatment is obtained, said Gammage. She said raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks are most often responsible for transmitting the virus to other mammals, which can include household pets like cats and dogs and humans.

County environmentalist Jeff Cowen cautioned that the public should understand the real danger of allowing pets to 'run free' in the wild. He said pet owners should keep their dogs or cats inside or in a pen.

"Needless physical contact with wildlife and stray animals should be avoided," he said.

June 5-11 has been designated as 'Rabies Awareness Week' in Alabama. This is a collaborative effort with the Department of Public Health, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.

For more information about having your pet vaccinated, call Dr. Alethea Gammage at 335-5309 or 335-5421.