Rabies shots will benefit animal work

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 19, 2003

Pet owners can get a picture of their pet with Santa Claus andprotect them from the ravages of rabies at the same timeSaturday.

The Brookhaven Animal Rescue League and the state HealthDepartment are hosting the pictures and rabies vaccinations at theWoodman of the World on Industrial Park Road from noon to 4p.m.

“The proceeds from the photos will benefit BARL, so we encouragepeople to participate in either or both events,” said Dr. BrigidElchos, public health veterinarian for the state HealthDepartment.

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Licensed veterinarians will administer the rabies vaccine for $5for each dog, cat, or ferret. All animals must be on a leash or ina pet carrier for safety.

Mississippi law requires the rabies vaccinations for all dogsand cats over three months of age, a second shot a year later, andanother at least every three years afterwards.

“It can save their life, ” Elchos said. “If an unvaccinatedanimal comes into contact with a rabid animal it has to beeuthanized. Rabies can be prevented, but there is no cure.”

Although Mississippi has been relatively clear of reported casesof rabies with only positive bats this year, the states borderingMississippi continue to identify cases in wild and domesticatedanimals.

According to health officials, 1965 was the last time rabies wasidentified in a Mississippi land animal such as a dog, cat,raccoon, or fox. The presence of rabies in bats, however, shows thepotential is still there.

“Occasionally bats will bite dogs or cats, and the vaccinationgives them a barrier of protection,” Elchos said.

Vaccinating pets also serves as preventive barrier for humans,she said, because human cases are most often derived from bites bydomesticated animals such as pets.

Elchos stressed that it is just as important for cats to bevaccinated, perhaps even more so than dogs. It is hard for peopleto realize that, she said, because the public perception is that itis a dog virus and cats are immune.

“I’ve had customers tell me cats couldn’t get rabies, but, infact, in the U.S. there are more cases of rabies in cats thandogs,” she said. “Many people don’t know cats can get rabies.”

Cats are more susceptible to the virus, Elchos believes, becausethey generally spend more time outdoors and the misperception bythe public means many cats are unvaccinated.

Saturday’s clinic is unique this year in that it is the firstthis year. Normally, clinics are held in the spring and fall, butthere was no spring clinic this year.

“The clinics here have been very good at holding vaccinations,”Elchos said. “It’s very impressive. I wish all areas were thissupportive. Unfortunately, we were just unable to hold a springclinic this year.”

The Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association and theMississippi Board of Animal Health are sponsoring the event.