For Immediate Release - March 20, 2012

State Agricultural Officials Promote Spring Rabies Clinics

Residents urged to keep pets up-to-date on rabies shots

BOSTON – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – This spring, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), in partnership with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Massachusetts Animal Coalition are encouraging pet owners to take advantage of low-cost rabies vaccination clinics taking place in communities across the Commonwealth.

State law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets living in Massachusetts be vaccinated against rabies. Low-cost rabies vaccinations are offered to pets to protect the animals and the public at large. These clinics provide an affordable opportunity for pet owners to remain in compliance with state law.

"These rabies vaccination clinics are a low-cost way for animal owners looking for ways to protect their pets," said DAR's Director of Animal Health Michael Cahill. "Keeping your pet's rabies vaccination up-to-date is the best way to protect your pet and your family against this deadly disease."

The vaccination clinics are part of a wider rabies awareness effort that was started in 2000 as a joint initiative between DAR, DPH and the Massachusetts Animal Coalition, in cooperation with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, the Cape Cod Veterinary Association and the Veterinary Association of the North Shore.

"Effective animal control and our success in vaccinating companion animals against rabies are the reasons that rabies is under control in North America," said Dr. Catherine Brown, state veterinarian.  "Unfortunately, rabies in raccoons and other wild animals continues to occur, as the recent bat strain rabies that led to the death of a Cape Cod man reminds us. So we must not let down our guard in protecting our animals -- and indirectly our children and ourselves."

The clinics are currently offered in different communities throughout the Commonwealth. DAR maintains and regularly updates a convenient list of clinics on its website. The majority of clinics take place from April through June. For a complete list of participating communities, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/animalhealth/rabies/index.htm.

Rabies is an infectious and contagious disease that can be transmitted to humans through the saliva of an infected animal. Transmission usually occurs through a bite or scratch. The virus is considered to be 100 percent fatal if untreated.

In 2011, 90 terrestrial animals and 20 bats tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts. Consequently, 111 domestic animals were put at risk by known exposures to those rabid animals. In addition to the pets exposed to known positive animals, more than 2, 292 pets had exposure to animals that had the potential of being rabid but were not available for proper testing.

Most exposures occur when there is contact between a pet and wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, woodchucks and bats or free roaming, unvaccinated cats. If you suspect your pet has come in contact with rabies, contact your veterinarian and local animal control officer.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish.

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