LUMBERTON — Almost 700 cats and dogs received the rabies vaccine last week during veterinary clinics at which the shot was offered at half the normal price.
Although the 687 was fewer than the 714 pets vaccinated in 2017, Dr. David Brooks, the owner of Pembroke Veterinary Hospital, was pleased. If not for the clinics run by the Robeson County Veterinary Medical Association, a lot of the animals would be at risk for the fatal disease that also can put humans at risk.
“Eighty percent of those treated would never have been at a vet to get a shot on a routine basis,” Brooks said. “Thousands didn’t get shots.”
The five veterinary clinics that are a part of the Robeson County Veterinary Medical Association offered the shots for $5 each while rotating among the county’s 32 fire departments. Normally the cost is $10, but the county government paid $5 of the cost.
“The county commissioners did a tremendous service by absorbing part of the cost,” Brooks said. “The more pets are vaccinated, the less chance there is of it getting in a person.”
There is only one documented case of a human surviving the disease. If an unvaccinated dog or cat is suspected of having the disease and bites a person or another animal, it has to be put down so its brain can be examined to see if it is infected.
Brooks said about 80 percent of the vaccinated animals were dogs, and the rest were cats. The vaccination program is timed to get dogs ready for hunting season.
The county always is at risk for an rabies outbreak. Brooks said. Foxes, wolves, groundhogs and beavers are carriers, but any mammal can be infected with rabies. An infected animal can transmit the infection to other animals, which can then bite a human.
State law says all dogs, cats and ferrets must have a certificate that shows the animal is vaccinated against rabies and is free from and has not been exposed to rabies.
Bill Smith, director of the Health Department, said only abou 30 percent of all the animals in Robeson County that should be vaccinated against rabies have been.
Most rabid animals in rural areas die in the wild, and most likely won’t run into people, but three nearby counties have had rabies outbreaks this year, Smith said. Larger cities in surrounding counties create more opportunities for people to come into contact with rabid animals.
The next opportunity for discounted shots will be Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 at the participating clinics: Baird’s Animal Hospital, and Southeastern Veterinary Hospital in Lumberton, Pembroke Veterinary Hospital in Pembroke, South Robeson Veterinary Hospital in Fairmont, and North Star Animal Hospital in Parkton.
The fee will be $10, but without an office visit charge.