Animal control urges pet owners to vaccinate

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Beaufort County Animal Control is warning residents to beware of rabid animals and to get pets vaccinated.

The notice comes after a fox attacked a woman in Bath, according to Chief Animal Control Officer Billy Lassiter. Tuesday, a positive rabies test was returned on the fox and the woman is undergoing a series of post-exposure rabies vaccines, Lassiter said.

Lassiter said this is the third time in the past two months that rabies-positive wild animals have attacked. The previous two incidents involved pets that were bitten by raccoons. For animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies, there are only two options if bitten by a rabid animal.

“Most situations, if the dog or animal they come in contact with, if they’re not vaccinated, they have to be euthanized,” Lassiter said.

The other option is for the bitten pet to be quarantined for six months at the pet owner’s expense, which Lassiter said costs about $3,000. Vaccinated animals bitten by a rabid animal still require a booster shot. Lassiter is urging all pet owners to have their animals vaccinated.

While the three attacks have been in rural areas, Lassiter said it could happen anywhere.

“You never know. You could be at a rest stop; you could be anywhere. You can let them out in the back yard and that’s what happened (in Bath),” Lassiter said. “It’s much less expensive to just get a rabies shot.”

Lassiter said the woman in Bath was outside in her yard with her dog when the fox came into the yard and began chasing her dog. The pet owner was attempting to ward off the animal when it bit her on the back of the ankle, leaving puncture wounds on both sides of the joint.

“That’s a positive contact with a positive animal,” he said.

Lassiter said residents also should take the precaution of never leaving food out for stray animals. Rather, stray animals should be reported to animal control.

“Leaving food outside will draw the wild animals,” he said.

There is one wild animal found locally in abundance that seems to be immune to the disease: opossums.

“It is very, very rare that marsupials carry rabies,” Lassiter said.

Rabies vaccines for pets are available at the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility in Washington, where animal control has two certified rabies vaccinators on staff. The cost is $10 for a one-year vaccination.

For more information, contact animal control at 252-946-4517.