Cat and dog owners in Warwick need to make sure their pets are current on their rabies shots, especially since Ann Corvin of the Warwick Animal Shelter said Tuesday that two local dogs have been exposed to rabies-positive raccoons in the past three weeks. One rabid raccoon was seen on View Avenue, while another was spotted off Strawberryfield Road.
According to State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, it’s an ongoing problem. While he said he wouldn’t call this a significant outbreak, he has noticed a slight increase of cases throughout the state the last few weeks.
Rabies, a viral infection mainly spread by infected mammals, has the potential to be deadly to both animals and humans alike. Aside from raccoons, carriers likely include bats, foxes, skunks, woodchucks, cows, cats, dogs and ferrets. State law has required rabies vaccination for pets since the mid-1950s, and precautions need to be taken to ensure pets – and people – are safe.
The best way is to keep pets vaccinated. To help, the shelter is hosting a rabies clinic May 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with Veterinarian Ryan Loiselle administering shots. The cost is $15 in cash.
“I’m trying to raise some awareness on the importance of keeping your animals up-to-date with a rabies vaccine because in these situations, if they are not current, they end up being quarantined at a shelter for six months,” Corvin said. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Marshall agreed, noting that it would just be a home confinement order if the pet is vaccinated as opposed to a stint at the pound.
“To avoid that heartache and to be in compliance with the law, make sure your animal is currently vaccinated,” he said.
The other problem, said Corvin, is that people mistakenly think that once their animal gets a rabies shot they are set for life. That’s not the case, as the vaccine must be given every three years for the lifetime of the animal after their one-year booster shot.
Another issue Corvin hopes to clear up is the disbelief that indoor cats do not need the rabies shot because they do not go outdoors. She said she has seen several incidents where bats made their way inside homes with indoor cats, increasing their potential to be exposed to rabies. If the bat tests positive, any animal in the same area with it may be at risk.
An additional problem with bats, Corvin said, is that it is difficult to determine if they have bitten an animal because their teeth are so small. That’s another reason it’s best to keep pets current.
“Indoor cats still need rabies shots,” she said. “Number one, it’s state law, and number two, even cats that never go outdoors can be exposed to rabies.”
Corvin also said that she and her staff have noticed that more than half the dogs returned to their owners after being impounded are not current with rabies vaccines. If the trend of high rates continues, there’s a possibility that more domestic animals will contract rabies. She hopes anyone who owns a pet that needs to be vaccinated visits the clinic May 19 and asks everyone who attends to please adhere to the following rules: be sure dogs are leashed and that the collar is on snug enough so the dog cannot slip out. Cats must be in carriers. To receive a three-year vaccine, please bring the animal’s current rabies certificate. All pets without a certificate or an expired certificate will be given a one-year vaccine.