Elmira- The Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health had declared a rabies alert for Chemung County several years ago due to the presence of the disease rabies in terrestrial animals. The Chemung County Health Department is now required by new changes to the law to notify the public of this “rabies alert”. The rabies declaration also puts the following additional requirements on Chemung County residents and the Health Department:
• Rabies shots are required for all dogs, cats, and domestic ferrets by 4 months of age. Owners can be fined up to $200 if they fail to get their pets vaccinated and keep them up-to-date. This provision of the law will be actively enforced. This is an incentive to keep your pet up-to-date with its rabies shots.
• The Chemung County Health Department sponsors free rabies clinics at least every 4 months for residents of Chemung County, so there should be no excuse for owning an unvaccinated pet. The next free clinic will be held at Chapel Park on Saturday, April 16, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. Please call 737-2019 for more information.
• If a dog, cat, or domesticated ferret bites a person, the pet must be confined and observed for 10 days to ensure that it is healthy. If the pet is not currently up-to-date on its rabies vaccination, the owner must have the pet confined (at the owners expense) at an appropriate facility such as at a veterinary hospital, kennel, shelter, or farm. Vaccinated pets can usually be confined at the home of the owner. This is another incentive to have your pet up-to-date with its rabies shots.
• If a rabid or suspect-rabid animal fights with a pet that is not up-to-date on its rabies vaccinations, the pet must be either destroyed or placed in an approved quarantine for 6 months. However, if the pet is up-to-date with its rabies shots, only a booster dose of vaccine is required within 5 days of the exposure, yet another incentive. Recently we have had instances of rabid foxes attacking dogs and rabid raccoons entering homes through ‘doggie doors’ and attacking pets.
• All bites and potential rabies exposures are required to be reported to the Chemung County Health Department. Staff are available around the clock to help anyone who may have been exposed to rabies.
For more information on rabies and the dates of free rabies vaccination clinics, please call the health department at 737-2019 during normal business hours or visit www.chemungcountyhealth.org. For residents with urgent emergency inquiries, the after-hours number is 737-2044.