May is Rabies Awareness Month

Rabies is a preventable disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal and Durham Region Health Department is encouraging the public to vaccinate their pets against rabies.

“A key component of rabies prevention and control is responsible pet ownership, including rabies vaccination for all dogs and cats over three-months old,” said Ross MacEachern, Manager, Health Protection with the Health Department. Pet owners can protect their family and their pets by ensuring that all dogs and cats have current vaccinations against rabies. Responsible pet ownership also includes, keeping vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats and ferrets. Current immunization against rabies is required by Ontario Regulation 567/90 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for cats and dogs over three-months old.

 It is advised to keep your pets under direct supervision to avoid contact with wild animals, calling your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighbourhood and having your pets spayed or neutered to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

Report all animal-to-human bites to the Health Department at 1-888-777-9613. “Rabies is present in our wildlife population, most often associated with foxes, skunks and bats; and more recently with raccoons, in southwestern Ontario,” explained Mr. MacEachern. “Recently, a dog tested positive for rabies in Niagara Region and in 2018, a bat tested positive for rabies in Durham Region.”

The Health Department also recommends taking the following precautions to avoid exposure to rabies by avoiding all wild animals, especially bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons and dead or sick animals. Keep pets away from wild animals; pets should be kept indoors at night or should be supervised when outside. Do not attempt to care for sick animals and contact your local animal service and ask for assistance. Children should report animal bites or scratches to their parents/guardians who should, in turn, contact the Health Department.

Anyone who has had rabies exposure, which could include a bite, scratch or contact with the saliva of an infected animal, or who has information on potential rabies exposure, should immediately report the incident to the Health Department at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613.

Throughout May and June, low-cost rabies vaccination and microchip clinics are being held at various locations across Durham Region. For a current list of vaccination and microchip clinics visit durham.ca/rabies. Pet owners should bring all cats in a carrier and dogs on a leash and are encouraged to check back regularly for updated clinic dates throughout the year.

For more information on rabies awareness, please call Durham Region Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613. Information is also available at durham.ca/rabies.

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