Sun, Jul

Rabies is on the Rise! Here’s How to Protect Your Pets


ANIMAL WATCH-Rabies is a virus that infects the brain and ultimately leads to death. Any mammal can spread rabies. It is also preventable in pets by keeping their rabies vaccination current. It is hoped the following media reports will demonstrate current instances and tragedies that will cause every dog (and cat) owner to follow the State rabies law and keep California safe.


Note: In the City of Los Angeles, visit http://www.laanimalservices.com/ for licensing information. License your dog and put the tag on a collar or harness that is kept on the dog (not on the kitchen counter.)

The tag identifies that your pet has a rabies vaccination. The accounts that follow will demonstrate the importance of a visible ID. (A microchip, which provides quick contact with you if the animal loses its collar in an accident or incident with another animal, can also can save your pet’s life.)

An expert describes rabies:

“Rabies is an acute, progressive viral encephalomyelitis that principally affects carnivores and bats, although any mammal can be affected. The disease is fatal once clinical signs appear,” the Merck Veterinary Manual tells us.

Here are a few more paraphrased notes from this source:

Rabies also has a distinct geographic history and can be affected by changes in the virus-host dynamics. It can also be spread by human translocation of infected species -- which is one reason why trapped wildlife is not generally relocated.

For many years, skunks were the most commonly reported rabid animal in the USA, but since 1990, rabid raccoons have become the most numerous.

Canine rabies became established in dogs and coyotes in southern Texas, but was eliminated in the U.S. by the end of the 20th century, mainly through vigorous vaccination programs. However, canine rabies exists in Mexico -- just across our borders -- with the potential to spread throughout the USA if reintroduced.

San Antonio Has First Canine Rabies Case in Bexar County, TX, in Over 30 Years

In August 2015, the first case of canine rabies in Bexar County, TX, in over 30 years was confirmed in the city of San Antonio. The dog was not a stray, but someone’s pet that had not been vaccinated against the deadly disease.

Authorities do not know how the dog got rabies but it had a wound which could signal an encounter with a wild animal. In 2014, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed rabies in 31 bats and one raccoon in Bexar County.

If the dog had been vaccinated, it would have been 100% protected, according to Dr. Danette Schweers, veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Room. 

In January 2016, shortly after the rabies incident, San Antonio Animal Care Services announced, San Antonio Hits 90% Life-Saving Record for Animals, meaning that, with an average intake of 30,000 animals annually -- it is the largest city in the nation to achieve the nationally accepted “No Kill” standard.

Not unlike Los Angeles (which also does not aggressively pick up strays or loose dogs,) it is unknown how many abandoned, starving animals are left to roam the streets of San Antonio so that they will not complicate the “no kill” statistics – resulting in increased prestige and donations, regardless of the untracked consequences for animals merely transported to “rescues” or other shelters in or outside the U.S. in an endless shell game.

Sharon Gregory, clinic manager for the Dodd Animal Hospital on San Antonio’s East Side, told the San Antonio Current, “On a daily basis we get dogs tied to our gate. We have boxes of puppies or kittens dumped here.” 

She believes the number of animals on the street -- many of which are just turned loose to roam by owners -- has not improved even with the animal control budget doubled over the past ten years.

Rabies is 100% fatal in animals but is fully preventable with up-to-date vaccination, experts say. In humans, the disease is nearly 100% fatal, even with post-exposure prophylaxis, which reportedly can cost from $2,000 to $7,000 per person.

A person who has had contact with a potentially rabid animal must receive four or five shots in the thigh muscle over 30 days.

When a family pet is involved, every person living or visiting the household or who has even potentially come in contact with the dog’s saliva must be monitored.

If the vaccine status of an animal is unknown, the only way to test for rabies is to euthanize the dog and analyze brain tissue.

San Antonio Metro Health offers the following recommendations, shared by the San Antonio Current:

 Teach children that they should never touch wildlife or any roaming animal, regardless of whether it is living or dead. Children should be taught to tell an adult immediately if they see or touch an unknown animal in close proximity to people or pets.

 Residents should also refrain from feeding, touching, or handling any wildlife or unknown animals.

 If you or your pet makes contact with a bat, skunk, raccoon, coyote, or other wildlife, contact animal control immediately.

 Pets that come into contact with wildlife should be confined to prevent further exposure to people or animals. State law dictates that any actual or potential rabies exposure must be reported to the local rabies authority for investigation and potential testing.

 If the unknown animal is within a home or building, keep the animal confined, but only if it can be done safely and without direct contact.

 If at all possible, wait for Animal Control to respond and avoid striking the animal. Physical trauma can damage the brain and make it impossible to conduct rabies laboratory tests.

First Case of Skunk Rabies in Los Angeles County in 35 Years Reported in 2014

The first rabid skunk in Los Angeles County in 35 years was confirmed in June 2014, in Long Beach. The skunk had been infected with rabies from a bat. This was the first rabid skunk found in LA County since 1979.

In 2014, forty-one rabid bats were found in Los Angeles County, according to the Public Health Department. Those found in the city of LA, one was in West LA, one in Koreatown, and another in Century City.

Any mammal can be infected by rabies, but in California the disease is most commonly found in bats, skunks and foxes. People should not touch injured or sick animals.

If an animal bite does happen, authorities said to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

City officials advised citizens to vaccinate and leash their pets and avoid contact with wild animals.

Also, if you are traveling to various areas of the world, you should be aware that:

The World Health Organization says while roughly 55,000 people worldwide die of rabies annually; this is generally centered in Asia and Africa.

Rabies virus is endemic in dogs in many countries throughout the world, including, but not limited to, parts of Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

In the United States, only one or two rabies deaths per year are reported.

Rabid Skunk Cases and Potential Cases of Human Exposure in CNY and NNY

On March 16, 2016, New York State Senator Patty Ritchie announced $875,000 in new funding in the Senate's budget plan to fight and prevent rabies. This increase comes on top of $50,000 in funding proposed by the Governor, and sets a new record for rabies-prevention budget funding.

Can Feral and Stray Cats Spread Rabies?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2013 that cats have remained the most frequently reported rabid domestic animal at 53%, followed by dogs at 19%, cattle 18%, horses and mules 7%, sheep and goats 2%, and other domestic animals including swine and llamas at 1%. Cats have represented the majority of rabid domestic animals since 1992.

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at The Animal Medical Center of New York, has first-hand knowledge of the health risks stray and feral cats face while living on the streets and the risks good Samaritans face when they try to care for them.

On Humans and Cats Sharing Diseases, she explains, “Rabies is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. Currently, the most important reservoir of rabies in the USA is wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. However, 269 cases of feline rabies were reported in the USA in 2005, the most currently tabulated data. So, it is possible for stray cats to transmit rabies to humans.”

It’s tempting to save a stray or injured animal, but before you do, contact animal control for assistance, because no one knows the vaccine status.

Rabies Investigation Reaches Popular Austin, TX, Restaurant

On March 3, 2016, KXAN broadcast that six people and eight pets are currently being monitored after coming into contact with a rabid dog at popular Zilker Park in Austin, but the Texas Department of State Health Services is still trying to track down the boy seen playing fetch with the dog.

The dog’s saliva could have infected him. State health officials say it is important to find the boy so he can see a doctor and get treated before showing any possible symptoms.

The border collie mix started showing symptoms Feb. 12, and animal control officials said the dog was infectious when it visited Zilker Park just a few days earlier.

County Health officials determined that the dog contracted rabies after being bitten by a skunk outside of San Antonio. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies, according to animal control officials. The owners did not notice the bite and took the dog to Zilker Park — where it played with other dogs, as well as the boy.

“At first, you think: ‘If everybody’s vaccinated, why do I need to get my dog vaccinated?'” said John Brown, who was at Zilker on Tuesday with his dog, Rue. “But it’s so important because all it takes is that one dog.”

Health officials also say the dog was then taken to a nearby restaurant to the open patio eating area. Three employees who may have contacted the dog are being monitored as a precaution.

San Mateo County, CA, Rabies Risk May be Increased by Drought

“The record-breaking water crisis in California has led to agricultural and economic problems, but another side effect of the drought has emerged: an increase the risk of rabies in San Mateo County,” the Bay City News Service wrote in June 2015.

As summer approaches, more wild animals are looking for water and coming closer to homes, officials warn. This drought-amplified trend endangers humans and pets who may be spending more time outside.

First Case of Raccoon Rabies in Ontario since 2006 Detected After Dog Fight in Animal Control Truck

A fight between two Ontario dogs and an aggressive raccoon in the back of an animal control van has led to the discovery of the first documented case of rabies in a raccoon in the province in nearly a decade.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it’s the first documented case of rabies in a raccoon since 2006 in Ontario, where rabies control programs were instituted over 20 years ago.

In the summer of 2015, 100,000 baits containing rabies vaccine for wildlife were distributed. Provincial officials say the flavored baits immunize most skunks, foxes and raccoons that eat them.

The fight between two Bull Mastiffs and the rabid raccoon was captured on video and uploaded to Facebook by Paula Fancey, the owner of the dogs. The dogs were picked up by animal services workers after they broke out of her property.

Fancey says the raccoon got loose first, prompting one of her dogs, Mr. Satan, to break out of his cage and fight the raccoon.

City spokeswoman Ann Lamanes says one of the dogs got out of the cage and attacked the “aggressive raccoon,” which fought back, cutting the dog’s mouth and tongue. Fancey said the animal control officer re-captured the raccoon and put it in a cage next to their other dog, Lexus.

“Then the raccoon reached through the cage and bit her,” she said. Neither of the dogs was current on vaccinations. The owner learned that the raccoon tested positive for rabies. Later, after speaking with her veterinarian, she said she was likely going to euthanize the dogs.

“It’s not worth the risk,” she said. “We have kids and we can’t keep them quarantined for months, we just can’t….It’s our fault that the dogs got loose and broke through the gate, but why were they in the animal control van with a raccoon?” she said. “And why do they use those cages? They’re flimsy and not secure.”

A veterinary pathologist with the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative called the discovery of rabies in the raccoon disturbing. The raccoon was also euthanized.

A spokesperson for the city said a review is being done of the strength and condition of the cages used in their vans and whether domestic animals should be transported at the same time as sick or injured wildlife.

Rabies vaccine program to return to Cape Cod after 13-year absence

For the first time in 13-years, federal and state officials will battle the spread of rabies in raccoons in towns west of the Cape Cod Canal, including Wareham, starting April 18, 2016.

The United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, in cooperation with the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force, will continue its Oral Rabies Vaccine Program with 72,000 vaccinations, disguised as edible treats, off the Cape in the mainland sections. Approximately 39,000 pieces of bait will be distributed on Cape Cod.


(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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