A fox tested positive for rabies recently in Robeson County.
This particular animal was located just north of Lumberton, but in the past we have had animals test positive from downtown Lumberton, Pembroke, Rowland St. Pauls, etc. — the point being that rabies is prevalent throughout the whole county. The most common animal involved, for us, is a raccoon followed by a fox. Farther to our north, it is a skunk that is most likely to be rabid.
This most recent case is unusual in several aspects. After biting the owner and the dog, the fox followed them into the house. The owner was able to trap the fox in a bathroom and call 911. But because she reported it as either a fox or a coyote, the call was relayed to Wildlife rather than Animal Control, so it was responded to the next day.
But the big difference is that the dog was current for its rabies vaccinations. As such, all it needed was a booster and to be monitored the next 45 days. If the rabies vaccination was not current but it could be proven that it had been vaccinated at some point, it still could have received a booster within 96 hours and just had its whereabouts monitored. However, never-been-vaccinated pets that come into contact with a suspected rabid animal (which is any animal that can transmit rabies and is not available for testing) would have to be quarantined for four months at a veterinary hospital at the owner’s expense or be euthanized.
Our local veterinarians have gone far beyond what one would expect when it comes to rabies vaccination clinics. Typically, there is a vaccination clinic in the spring and again, before the start of the hunting season. They have held clinics at each fire station. Because these are low-cost clinics, there is no profit to be made.
If, as an owner, you have not done as required by state law (all cats and dogs at the age of 4 months are to be vaccinated against rabies), then you are facing a quarantine cost of over $1,000 — if a clinic will accept the liability of housing your animal — or the euthanasia of your pet. Paying $8 during the clinics instead of 120 times that for quarantining seems like an easy choice.
Bill Smith is the director of the Robeson County Health Department.