By Merritt Melancon – email@example.com
Published Wednesday, February 1, 2012 Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 12:07am
Animal control officers and veterinarians in Jackson and Southern Hall counties are urging people to make sure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date after authorities confirmed that a rabid cow had attacked its owner and rabid bobcat had attacked two dogs.
“Our pets are a buffer between people and wildlife, and if people get their pets vaccinated that helps protect people,” said Dr. Kinsey Phillips, owner of Commerce Veterinary Hospital.
On Jan. 20 a Gillsville man had to shoot a bobcat that went after his dogs in his yard near the Jackson-Hall county line. A week earlier, a Maysville farmer was attacked by one of his cows, and the animal later was determined to be rabid.
Experts are calling both cases unusual but are not ready to say what the early and odd rabies cases mean for summer in Northeast Georgia, when reports of rabies seem to increase.
There were 66 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in 2011 in the 10-county region served by the Northeast Georgia Health District. There were 17 confirmed cases in Hall County in 2011, which is served by a different health district, according to news release issued last month.
The bobcat was the first animal in Hall County to be diagnosed with rabies this year, and it is the first time animal control officers there have seen a case of rabies in a bobcat.
“Generally, we deal with skunks, foxes and raccoons,” said David Jones of the Hall County Animal Control Department. “We’re hoping that this will be an isolated incident, but only time will tell.”
Jones surmised that the bobcat had probably gotten into a scuffle with a skunk, fox or raccoon and became infected with the disease.
It is very rare to see rabies in a cow, Phillips said.
The Maysville farmer who called Phillips’ office had told the large animal vet working on the case that the cow knocked him down and attacked him. Both the veterinarian and the farmer had rabies shots after coming into contact with the animal, Phillips said.
“Farmers don’t generally vaccinate cows,” Phillips said. “It’s usually your carnivorous animals that get vaccinated because usually when your herbivores like cows and goats get exposed or get infected — they generally don’t expose people. It’s unusual that a person would get exposed from a cow.”
To be safe, pet owners should make sure their animals are vaccinated and stay way from any animal that is acting strangely. While some animals — like foxes, skunks and coyotes — act aggressively when they are infected, others, like raccoons just seem disoriented