Ritchie: Keep our pets — and ourselves — safe from rabies

If your household is anything like mine, the “family pet” is in fact just that — part of the family.

From buying them treats to trips to the groomers, as pet owners, we do all we can to care for our animals. One of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet stays healthy is to make sure it has its up-to-date rabies vaccination.

Rabies is a dangerous virus that is transmitted through the saliva of animals. Anyone can contract the virus if they handle or get bitten by the animal that has the disease. More than 90 percent of all rabid animals reported to the CDC each year occur in wildlife.

The main animals that get rabies include raccoon, skunks, foxes and bats. However, most people are exposed to rabies due to close contact with domestic animals such as cats and dogs.

In an effort to prevent the spread of rabies — and keep our pets healthy — I am pleased to announce that I will be hosting free rabies vaccination clinics throughout the months of September and October.

For a full listing of clinics, visit my website, www.ritchie.nysenate.gov.   Please note that all pets receiving a vaccine must be leashed or in a carrier. If available, please bring a copy of your pet’s last certificate of vaccination.

To protect yourself from rabies, health officials encourage individuals to take the following steps:

** Make sure your animal has received its rabies vaccination.  Vaccines for dogs, cats and ferrets after three months of age are effective for a one-year period.  Re-vaccinations are effective for up to three years and pets that are too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors.

** Stay away from wild animals, especially when they are behaving strangely—and keep your pets away too.

** Teach your children about rabies, so they understand the risks.  It’s a good idea to encourage children to immediately tell an adult if they are bitten by an animal, and stress that they should not touch any animal they do not know.

** Don’t attract wild animals to your home or yard.  You can do so by keeping your property free of stored bird seed or other foods that might attract wild animals.  It’s also a good idea to tightly cap or put away garbage cans, board up openings in your attic, basement, porch or garage and cap your chimney with screens.

** If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away.  Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside.  Contact a local nuisance wildlife control officer who can remove the animal.

** Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your local health department.

Our pets give us unconditional love, and it’s only right that we take steps—like ensuring they get proper vaccinations—that keep our furry friends healthy.  If your pet needs to be vaccinated, I encourage you to visit one of my clinics this Fall to keep your pet a part of the family for years to come.

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