Chatham County Animal Control emphasizes rabies awareness

Jan. 31, 2013 @ 02:09 PM

Chatham County Animal Control wants residents to better understand rabies, including wildlife behavior and how to avoid contact with potentially rabid animals.  Residents are invited to a Rabies Clinic on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the County Animal Shelter just west of Pittsboro at 725 County Landfill Road.
“Rabies is recognized as being a problem in the wildlife for this area, just as it is throughout the state,” said Animal Control Director Leigh Ann Garrard. 
The statistics of confirmed cases in Chatham County where animals were tested and found to be rabid:
2011: 11 confirmed cases
2012: five confirmed cases 
2013: one confirmed case thus far
“We want everyone to take precautions to avoid exposure to all wildlife, but it is important to understand that some behaviors that might seem suspicious are not necessarily signs of rabies,” Garrard said.
For example, nocturnal animals periodically venture out in daylight hours in search of food, often near trash cans, birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles and other areas. “Some animals, such as foxes, that once were very shy are becoming more acclimated to humans as habitat areas have shifted to more populated areas,” Garrard said.
Other wildlife diseases, such as distemper, can include symptoms very similar to rabies as well, which can be confusing in determining if the animal is rabid. 
Garrard cautions residents to stay away from foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bats and other animals that are known to carry rabies, with the goal of avoiding any contact that might spread rabies.  “Making loud noises often will scare them away and is a safer action than taunting them or invading their space.”
Another important preventive measure is to make sure all pets have updated rabies vaccines, which are required by state law.  Being out of date with the rabies vaccine can trigger a $50 fine.
Garrard said that it is very important for residents to call Animal Control at 919-542-7203 when a wild animal has come in contact with a person or pet. 
“We do not typically respond to reports of sightings, such as a fox or raccoon seen during daylight hours,” said Garrard. “But, we will respond any time of day or night if contact with a human or pet has occurred. During regular work hours, we also will respond if the animal has behaved aggressively and tried to attack, even if contact was not made.”
If you want to know more, attend the Rabies Clinic or contact Animal Control at 919-542-7203. If you would like more information about the Chatham County Public Health Department’s programs and services, health-related data information, or community resources, please call 919-542-8220.