A rabid domestic cat and six other feral felines were euthanized after a Clinton woman was attacked Tuesday, a case the Sampson County Animal Control officials said was “totally preventable” and prompted authorities to strongly urge vaccinations.
The Sampson County Animal Control received confirmation from the state lab in Raleigh Wednesday that the cat was indeed rabid. It was seized in the Rackley Road area of Clinton on Tuesday, when the female victim reported being bit.
“Another family member shot and killed the cat and brought it to the shelter with six other feral cats,” said Animal Control’s lead officer Sgt. Jessica Kittrell. “All were euthanized due to possible exposure and no vaccinations.”
The only way to prevent rabies in a domestic pet is via a current rabies vaccination that must be provided by a licensed veterinarian. The vaccination comes at a nominal cost, normally ranging from $8 to $13. At the behest of Kittrell, the Sampson County Animal Shelter posted a Facebook message to the public Thursday urging everyone to “please make sure all your animals are vaccinated against rabies!”
It is a situation that Kittrell has seen before, and yet another that could have been avoided.
“This was totally preventable,” she remarked. “If never vaccinated, it means certain death for an animal that comes into contact with another rabid animal.”
Many times it is not just one or two, or even a handful of feral cats. By the time Animal Control is called, it can be close to a dozen feral cats, up to 40 in one particular incident in the county, Kittrell recalled.
“We have a huge problem with that,” she said of people feeding and caring for outdoor felines. “A cat shows up and they start feeding it. Instead of spaying and neutering and vaccinating them, they feed them and they begin to multiply.”
Feral cats already wander around — dogs too, to a lesser extent — but compounding the problem is the “unreasonable amounts of food left out at one time,” the sergeant noted. That food attracts foxes, raccoons and other wild animals that could be carrying disease when they interact with these cats.
“When they go rabid, it makes a wild animal like a fox or raccoon tame and lethargic, and a tame animal wild and prone to attack,” said Kittrell.
She urged the public to take preventative measures to avoid costly — and painful — consequences, both to animals and their owners.
While a majority of the rabies cases in domestic animals have involved feral cats, there have been times a beloved family pet — cat or dog — has had to be seized by Animal Control and put down. Kittrell said it is an unfortunate situation, especially when a child is left to mourn a pet that could have been saved with a few dollars of prevention.
She noted the last instance of a domestic animal contracting rabies. It was a husky and, not only did it have to be put down, but seven family members had to go through the series of post-exposure shots.
“Those post-exposure shots to rabies are very expensive and very painful,” said Kittrell. There are three of them, the first of which is handled at the emergency room and the other two through the local Health Department. The series of shots could cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The heartache, the cost and the loss is not worth it.
“It all could have been prevented with just $8,” Kittrell said.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.