The death of a horse in North Fort Myers two weeks ago has the Lee County Health Department urging rabies vaccinations for pets and livestock. It was the county's first confirmed case of rabies in a domestic animal in two years and the first case of any kind so far this year.
Inoculation is urged because rabies, while rare, is always fatal.
Domestic animals - pets and livestock - typically contract the disease after coming into contact with an infected wild animal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 92 percent of the 6,154 cases confirmed in the U.S. in 2010 were non-domestic, with raccoons topping the list followed by skunks, bats and foxes.
Cats made up nearly 5 percent of the tally while dogs and cattle came in at just over 1 percent each.
There also were two human cases, both males who had reported coming into contact with a bat or bats.
Here in Lee, the Health Department reports only two to three animal cases per year and no human cases since 1946.
In addition to the call-out for rabies vaccinations, the Health Department also shared a CDC list of recommendations to keep humans and animals safe from rabies.
Those tips include:
n Visit a veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
n Maintain control of pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
n Spay or neuter pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
n Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
n Feed pets inside; do not leave pet food or accessible garbage outside to attract wild animals.
If you don't have a regular veterinarian for your pet, both full service and low-cost clinics may be found on the Lee County Domestic Animal Services website, www.leelostpets.com
That agency also suggests you get Fluffy or Spot vaccinated - and micro-chipped as well.
Good advice for pet owners and animal lovers alike.
- Breeze editorial