So far, 11 cases have been confirmed this year, eight more than last year’s three confirmed cases.
Gerri Yoder, director of the county’s animal care and control department, said incidences of rabies are always higher in the warmer, summer months, as wildlife and people are more active, giving additional opportunities for the two to come into contact.
The confirmed cases were either raccoons or foxes. Almost all of the positive cases were in residential areas all over the county, with the exception of Hampton, which has had no positive cases reported there this year.
Yoder said the county’s rapid growth and the resilience of raccoons and foxes are part of the reason why wildlife and residents are seeing more of each other.
“As our county has grown from primarily rural to more urban and suburban, housing has pushed wildlife out of their habitats and raccoons and foxes especially are highly adaptable and have made themselves right at home in our residential areas,” she said. “It’s hard to blame them, as we do so much to inadvertently entice wildlife including planting gardens, feeding birds and keeping compost and brush piles, all of which can be a source of food for these animals.”
In order to keep the cases of rabies from spreading, Yoder said the department has some tips for residents.
“The No. 1 thing that all pet owners should do is have their pets vaccinated to prevent rabies,” Yoder said. “A current rabies vaccine is required by Georgia law for all dogs, cats and ferrets and the law requires that this vaccine be administered by a licensed veterinarian. We also encourage horse owners to talk to their veterinarian regarding rabies vaccines for their horses.”
Secondly, Yoder said residents should take a look at how they might be attracting wildlife to their property and change those habits.
“We advise pet owners to leave their pet food down for no more than 30 minutes and then pick up whatever pets don’t eat in that time,” she said. “Home owners should also make sure garbage can lids are secure and underpin decks and outbuildings to keep wildlife from using these areas as warm and dry nests.”
Finally, Yoder said, residents should never approach wildlife.
County spokeswoman Melissa Robinson said the county is hoping to help reduce rabies cases and help keep pets healthy by promoting the animal control department’s offer of a $10 rabies vaccination during its low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
Information: (770) 288-7387 or www.hcacc.org