Citizens Can Help
Mercer County, WV - Counties in West Virginia are asking the public for help in order to meet the rise in rabies reports. This problem, however, is not limited to West Virginia. Due to the growing nationwide crisis of stray dogs and cats, many counties are experiencing an increasing amount of rabies reports. If you receive a bite from a rabid animal and it goes untreated, death may result.
Critical Ways to Reduce Rabies Spread
- Vaccinate your pets. Please remember that the rabies vaccination requires a regular renewal. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian.
- Spayed or neuter your pets. If cost is an issue, know that animal shelters often have reduced cost programs. Contact yours and find out.
- Do not feed stray pets on "occasion." Either adopt the stray and get it vaccinated or have animal control pick it up.
- Do not feed raccoons, and do not leave food where any wild animals can find it.
Contributing Factors to Rise in Stray Pets
- Many semi-rural and rural areas lack animal control resources to pick up stray animals.
- Many of these same areas suffer the "pet dumping" problem. People move, or no longer wish to care for their pet so they dump it in a sparsely populated area and "hope their animal survives," instead of taking the animal to a shelter.
- The failure of many people to spay, neuter and vaccinate their pets. While cost may be an issue, as mentioned above, always contact your animal shelter (city or county) and ask about lower cost options.
The Story of Mercer County is Not Unique
In Mercer County, people being bitten by animals and rabies throughout the country were among the topics discussed by the Mercer County Health Department Board of Directors. One hundred cases involving pets, stray dogs and cats, and wild animals have been reported in the county so far this year, said Doris Irwin, RN, BSW. Approximately 200 incidents were reported in 2007.
Irwin said that county residents have ways to help get rabies under control. "Don’t feed raccoons, get dogs and cats immunized and focus on eliminating food sources," she said. In many cases pets and rabid raccoons fight when the latter tries to eat dog or cat food left outside. Raccoons also raid garbage cans and trash left outdoors in bags.
Another rabies sources involves "minimally claimed" dogs and cats, Irwin said. They roam neighborhoods where people feed them; either they are neglected or do not actually belong to any one person. Nobody wants to turn them over to animal control officers, but they don’t want to pay for veterinary costs. They don’t want to spay or neuter them or buy a rabies shot, she said.
"These animals are poorly socialized and more likely to bite somebody like the mailman or a kid on a bike," Irwin said.
Currently, three people are being treated with post-exposure rabies shots in Mercer County. One dog that bit a person could not be found and another involved a stray cat. When a pet or wild animal that bit a person cannot be found and observed, post exposure rabies shots are given. The shots are expensive (approximately $2,000), painful and require several doses over a period of time.
04/02/08: Semi-Rural Area Endures Another Horse Attack by Roaming Dogs
03/21/08: Lubbock, TX - Elderly Man Attacked by Dog