Pet Owners Rush to Vaccinate for Rabies Before Inspections

Veterinarian James Green walked from car to car on Wednesday, pulling a new syringe from his lab coat with each cat or dog he encountered.

Within 90 minutes, he had given rabies vaccinations to 126 dogs and cats at a field clinic held in the parking lot of Alabaster’s Buck Creek Park.

Green was not surprised by the high turnout, he said. In recent days, he has vaccinated almost 600 animals at such clinics around the county.

Shelby County’s rabies officer, Becky Senicz, has initiated a door-to-door verification program beginning next week to ensure pet owners are getting their cats and dogs vaccinated. Those who haven’t will face fines and legal proceedings.

But Green, who has been contracted to conduct the verification program, said he wants people to get their pets vaccinated before the program begins. Through his company, Rabies Control, Green is holding clinics throughout Shelby County in preparation.

“Today has been a great day for rabies vaccinations,” he said Wednesday.

His clinics offer the vaccine for $9 per animal, with no additional fees. Two remain before the program begins, he said: one scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. today at the Shelby County Humane Society in Columbiana, and one scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church on Alabama 119.

Becky Upton, the owner of two Shih Tzu dogs, took advantage of Wednesday’s clinic near her neighborhood.

“It would have been nice if it was a little more organized, but this is a great service,” she said.

While a few pet owners grumbled about the wait, many were appreciative of the price. Alabaster resident Dana Williams said she could not afford a traditional visit to the veterinarian’s office for 9-year-old Julie, a terrier and Pekingese mix.

She waited in her minivan Wednesday for Green to stop by with the shot. He encouraged pet owners at the clinic to keep their dogs and cats in their cars to cut down on confusion.

“I guess it doesn’t really bother me they are doing this,” Williams said about the verification program. “You should have your pet vaccinated. Rabies is a dangerous disease.”

State law allows Senicz, appointed by the Alabama Department of Health, to decide whether a verification program is needed in Shelby County. With five confirmed rabies cases in the county in 2004 – two bats and three raccoons – she thought it was time to go door to door.

Pet owners face fines of $18 per animal, with a maximum of two fines per household, if they cannot produce proper verification of rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs. If owners still do not comply after being notified they are violating state law, that $18 can jump to hundreds of dollars in court costs.

This will be the first time since 1992 that a Shelby County rabies officer has conducted door-to-door verifications.

Green’s company will conduct the verification program and keep any fines collected as payment. He has not mapped out a schedule of home visits but said the program will begin next week, take several months and include every house and neighborhood in the county.

More information is available from Rabies Control at 800-874-2910.



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