Health officials remind residents of rabies risk

Thursday, May 5, 2016 8:42 PM
Health officials are reminding residents to keep pets up-to-date with rabies vaccinations.

With the arrival of spring, health officials are reminding residents in Southwest Colorado to take precautions to prevent the spread of rabies.

The San Juan Basin Health Department urges pet owners to keep current vaccinations for dogs, cats and other animals.

Some Colorado lawmakers attempted to make pet vaccinations mandatory this legislative session.

Though the measure sailed through a legislative committee in February, controversy over the bill emerged in the Senate, leading some to question whether it will make the Senate floor or die this cycle.

The bill would have no affect on Southwest Colorado, which already requires vaccinations in Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and La Plata County.

"Rabies in our canine population has pretty much been eliminated in the Western Slope," Chris Nelson, director of animal services for the La Plata County Humane Society, previously told The Durango Herald.

"I never hear of humans contacting it from a dog or cat," he said. "It's because states and municipalities have made it mandatory for rabies vaccines; that's why it's pretty much been eliminated in our pet populations."

Still, the health department said if there's reason for suspicion, place pets under a 45-day home observation if they are current on vaccinations. A 90-day quarantine at home is recommended for pets with expired vaccinations. For a pet that has never been vaccinated, a 180-day quarantine split between a secured facility and home for pets is recommended.

Any wild mammal can carry and transmit rabies, yet bats are considered the most common carriers of the disease. Tips for avoiding rabies include not touching live or dead wild animals; and keep your home bat-free.