4-H fundraiser offers rabies shots

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The Bartow County 4-H Club’s rabies clinic is a winning proposition for all involved — dogs and cats get their rabies shots; pet owners get a reduced cost; and two local organizations get some much-needed funds.

Veterinarian Dr. Spencer Tally and local 4-H’ers will collaborate on the 10th annual Bartow County 4-H Rabies Clinic Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Cartersville First Baptist Church at 241 Douthit Ferry Road.

“Rabies vaccines are required by law, and we saw an opportunity to provide an economical service for county residents that would help them to vaccinate their pets,” she said.

State law requires the vaccinations because rabies is “one of the few illnesses contractible from household pets to humans,” said 4-H agent Allison Perkins, adding Bartow County requires vaccinations every year.

The available vaccinations will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“We provide 300 vaccinations each year,” Payne said, noting the clinic is open to residents of other counties besides Bartow. “Some years, we have gotten close to using all the vaccinations. Generally, we expect at least 200 pets to come. This year, we added a sign at the Depot to help promote this service.”

Pet owners must keep their animal on a leash or in a crate inside their vehicle for safety reasons, and they will be required to hold it for the veterinarian during the vaccination.

“As cars pull into the parking lot, 4-H’ers will help to process the paperwork associated with the service,” Payne said. “Pets and their owners never have to leave the vehicle. 4-H’ers will come up to the window with a clipboard and a form for them to fill out. The 4-H’er brings the form and the collected fees to the county agents, who then send them back to the car with their rabies tag. This process is vital so that Dr. Tally can then administer the vaccine without waiting for the paperwork to be completed.”

Tally, owner and medical director of Pet Vet Clinic in Cartersville, said he became a partner in the rabies clinic eight years ago after the 4-H Club “contacted me and asked if I would be willing to participate in the program.”

“Participating in the Bartow County 4-H rabies clinic helps support the local 4-H club,” he said. “It also helps protect the public health by getting more dogs and cats vaccinated who otherwise might not get vaccinated against rabies, a fatal zoonotic infection. We are happy to support our local 4-H club and youth in our community.”

He added he partners with a pharmaceutical company each year to provide the vaccinations.

Payne said the rabies clinic is a joint community-service project and fundraiser for 4-H and Tally’s Animal Angel Tree program, which, Tally said, helps the clinic support at least one needy animal during the year.

“The money is split, with 40 percent going to Dr. Tally and the angel fund and 60 percent going to 4-H, helping us to fund the outstanding programming offered to our county 4-H’ers,” Payne said.

Rabies is a virus carried by animals, primarily raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes and bats, that can be transmitted by saliva or brain tissue, Perkins said.

People can be infected when the saliva or brain tissue of a rabid animal gets in their mouth, eyes or blood, but rabies is typically spread through a bite or scratch.

Dogs, cats and livestock also can contract the disease.

“A rabid animal may act tame or show signs of aggression,” Perkins said. “An infected animal also may display strange behavior, such as avoiding water, foaming at the mouth or having difficulty moving. It is advised to stay away from all stray or wild animals.”

For someone who is bitten by a rabid animal, treatment must begin immediately to prevent infection. If left untreated, rabies is 100 percent fatal.

The Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health offers these suggestions for protecting family and friends from rabies:

• Make sure pets get their rabies shots regularly. • Keep pets in the yard, on a leash or in the home at all times. • Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. Food left outside may attract wild or stray animals. • Stay away from wild, sick, hurt or dead animals. Do not pick up or move sick or hurt animals. If a wild, sick or hurt animal is found, call Bartow County Animal Control at 770-387-5153. • Do not keep wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes or wolves as pets. It is dangerous and illegal.

Residents are asked to report any suspicious animal to the environmental health office of the Bartow County Health Department at 770-387-2614 or Bartow County Animal Control. If a pet is bitten by another animal suspected of carrying rabies, call the Bartow County authorities, a veterinarian or the Georgia Poison Center 24/7 at 800-282-5846.