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Bay County Residents Urged To Vaccinate Pets, After 6th Case Of Rabies Found

Florida Department of Health

Bay County Health Officials are warning residents to avoid contact with wildlife and keep pets indoors after a number of raccoons tested positive for rabies. Officials are worried the disease could jump to humans via their pets.

Say your cat regularly eats on the back porch. What happens if a raccoon starts eating the cat food out of the same bowl?  Bay County Environmental Health Specialist Michael Templin says that’s not an uncommon sight and it’s problematic.

“It’s because raccoons know there’s food there. And, when animals like raccoons, have food that have high nutrition, like cat food or dog food, more raccoons will survive birth and survive to adulthood, and they’ll overpopulate and that’s particular a problem in urban areas," said Templin.

In the past couple years, Bay County has typically recorded 10 cases of rabies a year. A raccoon recently killed in Lynn Haven marks the 6th animal testing positive for rabies so far in 2013. Five are raccoons and one, a domestic cat. Templin says a pet having rabies is often worse than a raccoon contracting the disease.

“A rabid cat or dog would be more dangerous to a human than a rabid raccoon because dogs or cats are social with humans, whereas raccoons are not. If you’re bitten by a raccoon, you’re going to report it, but if your own dog or cat licking on your face or bites or scratches you, you might not think twice about that being a possible rabies exposure,” he added.

Templin is advising residents to supervise and vaccinate their pets, feed them indoors, and make sure all garbage containers are secure to avoid attracting wild animals.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.