To the editor:
Spring is here and it is time to make sure that all your pets are vaccinated against rabies.
According to Massachusetts state law all dogs and cats, including indoor only cats, are required to have a valid and current rabies vaccination and all pet owners must be able to provide proof of rabies vaccination. Not only is this the law and failure to comply with the law may result in a fine, but more importantly, keeping your pets vaccinated against rabies will help protect you and your family from this deadly disease.
Since the early 1900s, United States Animal Control has fought a hard battle to control the rabies virus. According to federal statistics, human deaths from rabies have dropped from more than 100 per year to an average of two to three per year as a result of implementing a strict rabies vaccination program within the United States. Worldwide, 30,000-50,000 people die annually from rabies. Rabies is carried by skunks, raccoons, foxes, woodchucks, and bats and it is a constant threat in our wildlife population.
The current guidelines for rabies vaccinations are as follows: The first rabies shot is given at 3-6 months of age (ideally at 3-4 months of age); the second rabies vaccine must be given exactly 9-12 months later to receive a three-year rabies vaccination. To have a valid three-year rabies vaccination for your dog or cat you must have proof of two vaccinations exactly 9-12 months apart and your certificate must have a valid date. If your pet has not been vaccinated according to these regulations, or if your pet is one day or more overdue for its rabies booster, your pet is considered unvaccinated. Unvaccinated animals exposed (or potentially exposed) to any suspect animal will need to be quarantined for six months or put to sleep in accordance with state guidelines.
The best way to protect your own health and the health of your family and friends is to make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies, and it is important to avoid exposure to rabies in wildlife. Don’t place food outside which will attract wild animals, do not touch or go near any wild or stray animals, and remember that bats are important carriers of rabies.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Department of Epidemiology (617-983-6800) is available to answer questions about rabies and rabies exposure in humans. The Bureau of Animal Health (617-626-1786) is available to answer questions concerning rabies in animals. You may also contact your local police department, animal control officer or animal inspector for additional information.
The annual Georgetown rabies clinic will be held again this spring on Saturday, April 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Georgetown Highway Department on East Main Street. The clinic is sponsored by the Veterinary Association of the North Shore, which is a nonprofit organization. The proceeds from the vaccination clinics go towards veterinary student scholarships. The cost will be $10 per vaccine (dogs and cats only). One-year certificates will be given unless you bring proof of vaccinations done according to the state law.
Please bring any and all rabies certificates you possess to the clinic so we can determine if your pet can receive a three-year certificate.
Remember that it is the law that all dogs and cats have proof of current rabies certificates, so vaccinate before it’s too late.
Holly Willard, DVM