Citations pile up for rabies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Veterinarian James Green wants pet owners in Shelby County to understand &uot;a pet is a luxury.&uot;

&uot;If someone cannot afford to get that pet vaccinated, they don’t need to have that pet,&uot; said Green, who has been appointed deputy rabies officer for the county’s rabies vaccination program.

&uot;They have a responsibility, not only to themselves, but to the public as well,&uot; he said.

Green said Monday the verification program has been under way only three-and-a-half days; however, he said, a lot of citations have already been issued.

&uot;There are an awful lot of people in Shelby County who are not in compliance (with the law),&uot; he said, indicating Shelby County has been in need of this program for years.

He said many people are &uot;not really cognizant of the importance of rabies vaccination,&uot; but he said he felt sure this door-to-door effort would help.

Along with the work of the inspector, Green said, the program offers many rabies clinics where pet owners can drive up and have their animals vaccinated while never having to leave the vehicle.

&uot;We’re getting animals vaccinated that have never seen a vaccination,&uot; he said.

The rabies vaccination verification is set up under administrative law established by the state board of health. Under this state law, dogs or cats that are family pets are required to be vaccinated against rabies. But also, a stray dog or cat that is fed, housed or otherwise allowed to remain on private property is the responsibility of the owner or lease-holder.

The law directs each county to appoint a rabies officer. Here, in Shelby County, that person is veterinarian Becky Senicz.

Should there become a problem (as in Shelby County), Green said, the law requires the county to hold a vaccination verification program.

Public health officials verified five cases of rabies in the county during 2004, each occurring in bats or raccoons.

Green indicated in earlier interviews that three of those cases were in residential areas.

Under state law, pet owners are given seven days to show verification if they do not have it at the time of inspection. The fine for non-compliance is $18 per animal with the maximum citation for only two animals.

If a pet owner does not deliver proof of vaccination, Green said a warning letter will be sent. If still in non-compliance, the county rabies officer will set a preliminary hearing. Failure to comply at that time will force the rabies officer to turn the matter over to the district court.

Fines can eventually reach up to $500, Green said.

Green said the next rabies clinic is set for Thursday, Jan. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Buck Creek Park.