For Immediate Release - March 16, 2010

Department of Agricultural Resources Partners with Massachusetts Animal Coalition for Spring Rabies Clinics

Residents urged to keep pets up to date on rabies shots

BOSTON - March 12, 2010 - The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), in partnership with the Massachusetts Animal Coalition, is coordinating rabies vaccination clinics in communities across the Commonwealth. Most clinics take place this spring, with one held at the Egremont Firehouse this Saturday (3/13).

"It is important to be diligent in controlling the spread of the rabies virus, which is deadly to both humans and animals. We are very happy to work with great partners to provide these services to animal owners," said Commissioner Scott Soares.

The DAR Division of Animal Health started a program in 2000 to raise awareness of rabies and increase compliance with state vaccination laws. Under Massachusetts state law, all cats, dogs and ferrets living in Massachusetts are required to be vaccinated against rabies. Pet owners can choose from clinic locations across the Commonwealth. Vaccination costs vary, but all clinics strive to be affordable.

"DAR receives calls on a regular basis from people who are seeking affordable rabies vaccinations. The clinics offer rabies vaccinations at a low cost." said DAR's Director of Animal Health Michael Cahill. "Keeping your pet's rabies vaccination up to date is the best way to protect against this deadly disease."

For a list of participating communities, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/animalhealth/rabies/vaccinationclinics.htm.

This rabies awareness effort is co-sponsored by the Department of Agricultural Resources, the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in cooperation with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association and the Cape Cod Veterinary Association.

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 from the infected animal. The virus is considered to be 100 percent fatal if untreated. To protect animal and public health, any pet owner who suspects that their pet may have been exposed to rabies should contact their veterinarian immediately.

In 2009, 128 wild and domestic animals tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts. Consequently, 80 domestic animals were put at risk by known exposures to those rabid animals. In addition to the pets exposed to known positive animals, in excess of 2,439 pets had exposure to animals that had the potential of being rabid, but could not be tested.

Most potential exposures occur when there is contact between a pet and wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, woodchucks and bats, or free roaming, unvaccinated cats. Unsupervised pets are at risk of attack by a variety of wildlife. If your pet comes home with a bite or wound, contact a veterinarian, your local police department or animal control officer immediately for further advice.

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working 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 MDAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at twitter.com/MDARCommish.