For Immediate Release - March 31, 2011

Agricultural Officials Host Spring Rabies Clinics

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

BOSTON - March 30, 2011 - This spring, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), in partnership with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and animal health organizations is hosting rabies vaccination clinics in communities across the Commonwealth.

State law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets living in Massachusetts be vaccinated against rabies. Low-cost vaccinations are offered to protect pets and the public at large against rabies, while giving pet owners a solution that is both affordable and in compliance with state law.

"DAR receives calls on a regular basis from people who are seeking affordable rabies vaccinations. These 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."

This rabies awareness effort - started in 2000 - is co-sponsored by 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, and the Cape Cod Veterinary Association.

The majority of clinics will be open in different communities throughout the Commonwealth from April 2 to June 4. For a 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 from the infected animal. The virus is considered to be 100 percent fatal if untreated.

In 2010, 187 terrestrial animals and 14 bats tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts. Consequently, 118 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 2,539 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 local veterinarian, animal control officer or police.

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 DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr.