A raccoon that died following a fight with a family dog in the area of Miramar Beach has tested positive for rabies. The family pet did not have a current rabies vaccination.
Walton County Health Department officials recommend that unvaccinated ‘victim' animals be euthanized to stop the spread of the virus if the other animal tests positive for rabies or cannot be tested. Two additional cases of wild animal attacks were investigated last week; one in the Santa Rosa Beach area involving a vaccinated animal and one in Miramar Beach with an unvaccinated animal.
"Rabies is a potentially fatal virus. Residents should avoid contact with wild or stray animals, watch for unusual behavior in pets and wildlife, and get pets vaccinated against rabies," said Holly B. Holt, Administrator, Walton County Health Department.
Florida Statutes require all dogs and cats older than four months to be currently vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. In the State of Florida, an animal is "unvaccinated" if its rabies vaccination has expired or was not given by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccines purchased at "feed stores" and administered by the animal's owner do not meet this requirement.
It is illegal to feed raccoons, either directly or indirectly because it artificially increases the raccoon population; increases the likelihood that conflicts with domestic animals will occur or that diseases like rabies will spread. Residents and visitors are urged to avoid contact with wild animals, stray dogs and cats and to teach children to stay away from stray or wild animals, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes. Do not touch animals that are not yours. No animal is too young to have rabies. Never touch a bat! Report stray or unusual acting animals to the Walton County Animal Control at (850) 892-8682.
The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies.
For more information on rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health website at http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/medicine/rabies/rabies-index.html or contact Walton County Health Department at 850-892-8021.