Health Department issues rabies warning

raccoon

March 28, 2019

For immediate Release

The Columbia County Department of Health is warning county residents of a sharp increase in the number of cases of confirmed rabid animals as we enter into the warmer months of spring. According to Environmental Health Director Ed Coons, “In the past nine weeks six out of seven raccoons have tested positive for rabies with one test pending.” Mr. Coons noted that the danger of rabies is not limited to raccoons, as the animals will likely come into contact with other mammals, such as skunks, foxes and feral cats. As the temperature increases and people spend more time outdoors, the potential for exposure to animals with a high risk of rabies increases as well. “If your domestic pet comes into contact with any of these animals please handle your pet using gloves and follow-up with good hand-washing practices,” said Mr. Coons.

Any potential rabies exposure to any wild or stray animal should be reported to the Columbia County Health Department. If a bat is found in your sleeping quarters or home, do not attempt to release or kill the bat. Contact CCDOH for necessary steps to take at (518) 828-3358.

The Public is also reminded not to handle, capture or attempt to confine any wild animals. Not only does attempting to handle wild animals pose a health risk, it is illegal under New York State law. According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) law, it is unlawful to capture or posses any wild animal unless you are licensed by the DEC. Tips and information on how to properly deal with wild animals, including contact information for local wildlife rehabilitators and the DEC’s Wildlife Office, can be found on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/261.html.

Prevention begins with the Pet owner. According to New York State Public Health law, dogs, cats and ferrets kept as pets must be immunized against rabies by their owner(s), defined as “any person keeping, harboring or having charge or control of, or permitting any dog, cat or domesticated ferret to remain on or to be lodged or fed within such person’s house, yard, or premises.” Failure to vaccinate these pets can result in fines of up to $200.00.

The Columbia County Department of Health hosts several free rabies clinics for cats, dogs and ferrets throughout the year. Pet owners are strongly encouraged to get their pet vaccinated. There is no charge to Columbia County residents, Dates and times for rabies clinics are available on the Columbia County Department of Health website at www.columbiacountyhealthny.com or by calling the Health Department at (518)828-3358.

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