Rabies clinics and dog licensing

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) called Animal Control Officer Bobby Silcott to inform him that a dog in Casco had been bitten by a rabid raccoon, and although the dog’s owners had agreed to quarantine the canine, the CDC had recommended the animal be “put down.”

The emotional turmoil of wondering whether or not a family pet might end up infected with rabies is difficult enough to endure, but can be avoided with a rabies vaccination, which is required by state law and is a pre-requisite for licensing any canine, according to Silcott.

“Anything could happen in the animal world,” Silcott said. “It’s best just to do get your pet vaccinated. We are on the top of the food chain here. It’s up to people to take care of our animals.”

[stextbox caption="Area-wide Low-cost Rabies Clinics" float="true" align="right" width="300"]When: Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Harrison Fire Station
Vaccination Cost: $10
Cost to License pet with Town of Casco: $6 spayed/neutered; $11 not spayed/neutered

When: Jan. 15, 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Sebago Town Hall building
Vaccination Cost: $10
Cost to License pet with Town of Sebago: $6 spayed/neutered; $11 not spayed/neutered

When: Jan. 15, 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Aubuchon Hardware in Naples, off Route 302
Vaccination Cost: $10
Cost to License pet with Town of Naples: $6 spayed/neutered; $11 not spayed/neutered

When: TBA, January
Where: Aubuchon Hardware in Raymond
Vaccination Cost: $10
Cost to License pet with Town of Raymond: $6 spayed/neutered; $11 not spayed/neutered

This month and next, several towns in the area will offer inexpensive vaccination clinics in conjunction with deadlines for re-upping dog licenses, Silcott said.

This Saturday, the Town of Harrison will hold its rabies clinic from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Harrison Fire Station. The cost for shots is $10, and people can register dogs with the town at that time.

Tags expire at the end of the year, but there is a 30-day grace period before pet owners are charged the $15 late fee after Feb. 1. A second late fee of $25 goes into effect after April 1, Silcott said. Residents must supply proof of up-to-date rabies shots to the town offices in order to license — or re-license — their dog.

According to Harrison Deputy Clerk Penny Bean, there are 666 dogs licensed with the town. She and her staff spend time in January, phoning residents and leaving messages that dog licenses have expired and a late fee will be applied after Feb. 1, she said. Over the years, it has gotten too expensive to mail reminders to everyone, she said.

This Saturday’s clinic will be an opportunity for people to bring in cats and dogs for rabies shots. Bean said the clinic turnout is usually a 50-50 split between cats and dogs. She reminded residents to bring proof of previous rabies vaccinations because it is required for the pet to get the three-year vaccine.

Naples Town Clerk Judy Whynot said in early November her offices mailed postcard reminders to owners of licensed dogs letting them know it’s that time of year again. According to the town offices, 401 pooches sported 2010 tags on their collars, and those owners will need to update them.

“We give people plenty of time so they don’t have late fees. Not all towns mail out reminders. We do it as a courtesy,” Whynot said. She added the Naples Fire & Rescue Department uses its digital sign to display a message reminding residents, too.

She said people who no longer have a dog that was licensed with the town should call the town offices to avoid being hit with late fees in February 2011, and again after April 1.

Naples will offer its rabies vaccination clinic on Jan. 15. Also, additional rabies clinics (in Sebago and Raymond) are slated in January, which gives pet owners more time to get dogs vaccinated before acquiring tags from the town where they live, according to Silcott.

According to Casco Assistant Town Clerk Debbie Poulin, 665 dogs were licensed with Casco in 2010. It’s up to residents to keep track of when dog tags expire, and to re-license canines with the town, she said.

“We don’t send out postcard or make phone calls. It’s the responsibility of the dog owners to remember,” Poulin said.

At past rabies clinics, dog and cat owners show up in equal numbers, she said.

During Casco’s rabies clinic that took place on Saturday at the South Fire Station, the cats far outnumbered the dogs, and about 40 vaccinations were administered, according to Silcott.

“The majority were cats that came into the clinic. A few people came in with their cat in their arms,” Silcott said. In both cases, the vet realized the feline was starting to panic, and immediately brought the needle over to the animal, advising the owner to return the cat to the vehicle.

“A cat can be the most docile creature,” he said. “But, if you bring a cat into a building like a fire station that echoes, and there is lots of activity and noise, a cat could hurt its owner trying to escape. A pet carrier is the only way to go — for the safety of the cat, too.”

In addition to the rabies shots, about a dozen dog owners purchased their 2011 licenses, Silcott said.

Every dollar spent on licensing dogs with town goes directly to paying for investigations into reports of animal cruelty, he said.

“Two dollars of the $6 fee goes into a local fund to investigate cruelty to animals. The other $4 goes to the state and pays for the worst cases. The money stays directly with the Animal Welfare Fund to pay state humane agents,” Silcott said. “When they find that out, most people are surprised that the money is going to help animals.”

“It’s the best money someone could spend,” he said.

Clinics are an inexpensive way to provide your pet with a safety net — just in case an outdoor pet comes in contact with an animal with rabies.

If a rabid animal bites someone’s cat or dog, there could be a window of up to six months before the rabies overtakes the victim. On the other hand, if the rabies is at the contagious stage, the animal that did the biting will be dead before completing its 10-day quarantine, Silcott said. Rabies is treatable, he said.

He added in Maine, bats and raccoons are the top two carriers of the disease that enters the bloodstream and is passed through salvia.

“The initial vaccination happens when your animal is six months or older. The following year, have the rabies certificate with you and the vet will give the three-year shot. If you don’t have proof of one-year vaccinations, the vet will get your animal a one-year shot,” he said.

“You don’t have to be a resident of the town to take advantage of the rabies clinic there,” Silcott said.

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