Pet owners, not vets, need to take the lead on vaccinations

September 14, 2013

As has been referenced several times, rabies vaccinations are required for dogs, cats and ferrets 4 months of age or older. Other animals, like wolves, are not considered vaccinated even if they receive a vaccination.

The local veterinarians and staffs made a super-human effort to provide vaccination sites in all areas of the county and vaccinated 1,758 vaccinated animals. What does this exactly mean for the total population?

There are several ways to calculate the number of dogs and cats in a community. One version is multiplying the number of households by 36.1 percent, to find the number of dog-owning households. Take that number and multiply it by 1.6, or the number of dogs per household, and one derives the number of dogs in an area.

For Robeson County, using a 135,000 human population, the number of dogs comes out to 29,205. Using a similar formula for cats, except substituting 31.6 percent of households owning cats and 2.1 cats per household, a figure of 33,553 is derived. There are geographical variations to this formula, but the generic national one should be close enough.

So there are 62,758 dogs and cats living in households in Robeson County. Obviously, this does not include strays and feral animals as they are not part of a household. But let’s stick with the known figure. Estimates are that 20 percent to 30 percent of the animals are currently vaccinated. This would leave between 50,206 and 43,931 unvaccinated animals. So the recent outreach effort really only impacted 3.5 percent to 4 percent of the unvaccinated population.

The point of this is not to diminish the efforts of the 11 veterinarians and their staffs but to state that these people running all over the place cannot meet the total need. That can only be done by the more than 20,000 pet owners who have chosen not to get their animals vaccinated.

We are comparing a professional group making a 150 percent effort vs. many owners making zero effort — that will never equate to a high vaccination rate. And in this case, vaccination really translates to prevention of an incurable disease.

Kudos to the rabies administrators and the public that came out — and shame to those who should have but did not.

Bill Smith is the Robeson County Health Director. He can be reached at 910-671-3404 or at