Pet owners urged to vaccinate animals against rabies

The Humboldt-Del Norte Veterinary Medical Association is sponsoring low-cost canine rabies vaccination clinics throughout the county in May and June.

Dogs will be vaccinated for $6 per rabies vaccination. Other canine and feline vaccinations will be available. The cost of these vaccines will vary with each clinic. A complete clinic schedule follows below.

"We vaccinate our pets for the protection of our families, neighbors and pets," said Melissa Martel, director of the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Health and Human Services. "The rabies virus is endemic in Humboldt County. This means it is always present in the wildlife population throughout our county."

"Rabies is especially found in skunks, bats and foxes in Humboldt County," Martel said. "We have very little control over wildlife. What we can do is vaccinate our pets, because rabies is always fatal in animals."

Martel said dogs are required by state law to be vaccinated at four months, with a booster one year later, and then every three years thereafter. Cats aren’t required by law to be vaccinated. However, it is highly recommended as they frequently interact with wildlife.

Martel said pet owners are often unaware of the consequences of not vaccinating their pets.

"If an unvaccinated pet comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the owner has two options," she said. "They can confine the pet in a ‘no touch’ double enclosure for six months to determine if the pet is infected with rabies or have the pet euthanized. Nobody wants that."

People exposed to a rabid animal or potentially rabid animal must undergo multiple medical treatments costing several thousand dollars.

"Always report animal bites to the animal control agency in your jurisdiction," Martel said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55,000 people die of rabies worldwide each year, primarily in countries where pets are not vaccinated. WHO says that dog bites are the source of 99 percent of these cases and WHO credits widespread vaccination of domestic animals for preventing these deaths in the United States.

Questions about rabies can be directed to Environmental Health at (707) 445-6215 or toll-free at (800) 963-9241.

The Humboldt-Del Norte Veterinary Medical Association rabies vaccination clinic schedule for 2012 is:

May 10: Murphy’s Market in Trinidad, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

May 12: Redwood Animal Hospital in McKinleyville, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

May 17: Rio Dell Fire Hall, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

May 19: Ferndale Veterinary Hospital from 10 a.m. to noon and McKinleyville Animal Care Center from noon to 1 p.m.

May 24: Murrish Market in Hydesville, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

May 30: Mattole Grange in Petrolia, 10 a.m. to noon

June 6: Eureka Veterinary Hospital, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

June 9: Sunny Brae Animal Clinic in Arcata from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Animal Medical Center in Fortuna from 11 a.m. to noon, Paradise Animal Hospital in Willow Creek from noon to 1 p.m. and the Garberville/Redway Veterinary Group, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

June 16: Cutten Animal Health Center, 9 a.m. to noon

June 30: Arcata Animal Hospital, 11 a.m. to noon.