standard To Stay Safe From Rabies, Health Department to Vaccinate Dogs, Cats, Even Raccoons

A Raccoon in an urban environment (Carsten Volkwein, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Raccoon in an urban environment (Carsten Volkwein, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Health Department is stepping up its game.

With an event this past Saturday and another similar program next weekend, the Department and Animal Care & Control of NYC, in partnership with NYC Parks, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, State Senator Martin J. Golden and Assemblyman Joseph Borelli, is providing free vaccinations against rabies to dogs and cats in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“Vaccinating your pets is the best way to protect them against infection,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “With the help of Animal Care & Control of New York City, NYC Parks, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and our elected officials, Brooklyn and Staten Island pets can be vaccinated for free at these events and have the best defense against many deadly diseases, like rabies.”

Rabies occurs in New York City in bats, raccoons, and occasionally in cats. NYC DOH detected three rabid raccoons in Brooklyn so far this year across different areas of the Borough Park neighborhood. Vaccinating your pet provides protection if they are bitten by one of these animals.

The vaccination locations for dogs and cats also offer convenient, on-the-spot licensing for dogs. New York State law requires that all owned dogs be licensed, and the New York City Health Code requires every dog owner to have a dog license tag attached to their dog’s collar while in public. Nonetheless, the Health Department estimates that only one out of five dogs in New York City is licensed. The annual fee to license a dog in New York City is $8.50, if the dog is spayed or neutered ($34 if not). The Health Department will assist anyone who wants to license their dog at either event and will waive the $2 late fee for renewing an expired license. Dog licenses are also available online at www.nyc.gov/doglicense.

“Vaccinations and dog licensing are two of the smartest ways to protect our pets and keep them healthy and safe,” said Animal Care & Control of NYC’s Executive Director Risa Weinstock. “A license is a sure fire way to identify a lost pet and get them back to their loving home should they ever wander from their family. We are glad to be part of this important community event. We hope all New Yorkers will take advantage of these free essential services and help promote responsible pet ownership throughout NYC.”

The first vaccination took place at the Salt Marsh Nature Center, 3301 Avenue U in Brooklyn, on September 14 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The remaining vaccination event will take place at the Blue Heron Nature Center, 222 Poillon Avenue in Staten Island, on Saturday, September 20, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“NYC Parks is pleased that our Salt Marsh Nature Center and Blue Heron Nature Center will be hosting an event of great significance to New Yorkers and their beloved pets,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.  “Thanks to the NYC Health Department and Animal Care & Control of NYC, dogs and cats will be offered free vaccinations against rabies, and dog licensing will be available. This event will be a great benefit to the to the health and well-being of our pets.”

“We are delighted to be a part of this important effort,” said Jane Hoffman, President of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. “This kind of collaboration is critical to helping to keep New York City pets safe and healthy.”

To vaccinate a pet at either event, animals must be healthy and at least 3 months old. Participants must bring pets’ past rabies certificate to obtain a 3-year vaccination certificate. If pet owners do not have a record, or the animal is receiving the vaccine for the first time, a 1-year vaccination certificate will be issued. Dog owners will not be issued violations at these events if they do not have a current license for their pet.

In addition to the rabies vaccine, Health Department staff will provide distemper, adenovirus-2, parainfluenza and parvovirus vaccinations for dogs at both events. Viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia vaccinations will be provided for cats. New York City requires that all puppies and kittens get their first rabies shot between 3 and 4 months of age. They also need to get a booster shot one year later and then again every 1 to 4 years. All major credit cards, debit cards and checks will be accepted for dog licenses at each event. All pets must be on a leash or in a secure carrier.

Raccoon Vaccinations in Coastal Brooklyn and Queens

Also during the month of September, wildlife biologists with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University will distribute oral rabies vaccine (ORV) along the southern border of Brooklyn and Queens to prevent the spread of rabies virus among raccoons. Cornell received State funding to pursue this program in New York City, and it is an expansion of a program being conducted in Long Island and parts of upstate New York.

The raccoons will be vaccinated using baits containing ORV which will be made available using fixed bait stations placed in several wooded areas. Raccoons are attracted by the brown, fish-scented bait, which conceals a small packet of pink colored liquid vaccine about one square inch in size. When raccoons chew the bait, they become immunized and cannot be infected with rabies.

The bait itself will not harm people, but in rare instances, exposure to the liquid can cause a rash. In the unlikely event someone comes in contact with the liquid, they should wash their hands with warm, soapy water, talk to their doctor, and notify the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. The bait is not harmful to pets and cannot cause rabies, but it can cause vomiting if several baits are consumed. If pets find it, residents are warned to not try to take it away from them in order to avoid being bitten and exposed to the vaccine.

(Image via Wikimedia commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Procyon_lotor#mediaviewer/File:Waschbaer_auf_dem_Dach.jpg)