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Rabies clinic popular with owners, if not their pets

June 07, 1998

By SHEILA HOTCHKIN

Staff Writer

Lines started forming at Washington County Health Department's fourth and final rabies clinic of the spring a half hour before it began Saturday at the county Agricultural Education Center.

"Everybody wants to be early," said Rebecca Sauceda, a sanitarian at the health department. "It's like a Washington County disease."

The department offers the clinics up to six times a year, providing $5 rabies shots to local pets. Saturday's clinic had attracted more than 100 animals before its first hour had ended. The clinics typically bring in about 300 in the usual two and-a-half-hour time for each one, Sauceda said.

David Castle, of Boonsboro, said he watches for the clinics for his 12-year-old German shepherd/collie mix named Aloyisius - no particular spelling. "It's a lot cheaper," he said of the clinics. "It's just easy to bring him here."

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Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and is passed through the saliva on infected animals. It can be treated by a series of shots over a month's time, but can be fatal when left untreated.

The clinic attracted primarily dogs, with a number of cats and a couple ferrets also putting in an appearance.

One man brought 10 energetic beagles, several of which howled pitifully upon receiving their shot.

Sauceda said it is especially important to vaccinate beagles and other hunting dogs. "[They're] good dogs to get vaccinated because they're out there chasing the rabid raccoons," she said.

Raccoons are one of the area's most common carriers of the disease. More than 500 of Maryland's 636 lab-confirmed rabies cases in 1996 were from raccoons.

More recently, on Memorial Day weekend, a Washington County boy was bitten by a rabid fox. He and his family are currently undergoing treatment.

One hour into Saturday's clinic, two cats had managed to escape their owners and race around the pavilion prior to receiving their shots.

"It's all over now," another woman crooned to her white-and-gray cat as it hissed and bared its teeth. "We're going home now."

Sauceda said cats can be the most difficult animals to vaccinate. She recommends bringing them in a carrier, pillowcase or a woven bag. "The gentlest cat turns vicious and the owner goes home with a severe bite," she said.

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