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Play it safe: Dont attract rabid animals
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Veterinarian Viviana Rodriguez demonstrates giving a rabies vaccination Friday on Apple, a French bulldog, at Browns Bridge Animal Hospital and Emergency Care Center while technician Marla Fiebelkorn keeps Apple calm. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Vaccinate your pets

Vaccines for $10 are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Hall County Animal Shelter at 1688 Barber Road in Gainesville and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia at 845 W. Ridge Road in Gainesville.

Feeding a beloved pet outside seems a common thing to do, but it could lead to a dangerous situation — an animal infected with rabies may venture into the yard.

“If a wild animal comes into your yard and there is easily accessible food, they are more likely to come back again,” Hall County Health Department spokesman Dave Palmer said.

The same situation may arise if animal lovers feed stray dogs or cats.

This point became evident when five people were bitten or scratched by a rabid stray cat previously fed scraps Jan. 16 in Lula, Hall County Animal Control Officer David Jones said.

The scary part is “you don’t know how many other cats” have come into contact with the stray animal, he said.

“And if they are feeding several, they may now be carriers of the rabies virus,” Jones said.

Therefore, Palmer and Jones discourage animal lovers from leaving food for strays. Palmer added the best place to feed a domestic animal is inside. But if it must be fed outside, he urged pet owners to pick up the food after the pet is finished.

These two simple acts will keep potentially rabid creatures away from a home.

But if a person or pet is scratched or bitten by the infected animal, medical personnel will follow specific protocol treatments.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, a person exposed to rabies must have four shots in the upper muscle of the arm. The first shot is given on the day of exposure while the remaining three shots are injected on the third, seventh and 14th days.

Rabies, carried in the saliva of the infected animals, affects the brain and causes an animal to become aggressive.

The animal also has little to no fear of humans. Typical carriers of rabies include foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats, Palmer said.

“A wild animal showing no signs of fear, chances are that animal is rabid,” he said. “The best thing to do is to stay away from wild animals and make sure kids and domestic animals are inside.”

An unfamiliar animal or one acting strange should alert others to stay away and call 911 or the county animal shelter.

“Sometimes when a dog runs off and comes back with bite wounds, owners tend to think he got in a fight with another dog,” Jones said. “But it could very well have been a rabid raccoon and the owners won’t know until it is too late.”

If a pet with up-to-date vaccinations has been bitten by a wild or unknown animal, it will be be quarantined for 45 days. A pet without current vaccinations is either put to sleep or placed in isolation and monitored for six months. Those are the only options an owner has, Jones said.

“The owner is responsible for building an isolation pen and the (Hall County Animal Control) would have to inspect and then approve the pen,” he said. “You can’t physically touch the animal for six months.”

The pen must be built to allow the owner to feed, water and clean the animal without physically touching it. After six months, the state of Georgia is satisfied the animal does not have the virus.

During construction of the pen, the possibly infected animal must stay at the county shelter, which charges a daily fee.

“Isolation can be very expensive, and it can be prevented with a shot that costs $10,” Jones said.

Both the Health Department and animal control officials said the best treatment is vaccinating pets for rabies.
Vaccines are available for $10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Hall County Animal Shelter at 1688 Barber Road in Gainesville and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia at 845 W. Ridge Road in Gainesville.

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