Nearly 450 animals vaccinated for rabies

Drive-thru clinic draws hundreds in wake of recent rabies scare

By Heather Michon

Nearly 450 Fluvanna County pets are now vaccinated against rabies thanks to an emergency vaccination clinic held at Pleasant Grove on Saturday morning (Jan. 4).

Local animal shelters and groups teamed up to organize the event after a rabid dog was euthanized in Scottsville shortly before Christmas.

The organizers said they had 700 doses on hand at the start of the event—and for a time, it looked like that might not be enough. Cars started lining up along the road that snakes through the park well before the official starting time of 9 a.m. and by 10 a.m. were backed up almost three-quarters of a mile.

To expedite the process, it was set up as a drive-thru clinic, with vets performing the vaccinations on animals right in the cars. More than 40 volunteers split up into groups, with some filling syringes with bright-pink vaccines, others teaming up with vets to help with the paperwork that accompanies the process.

“It is imperative that it all be done correctly,” said Erika Proctor of Green Dogs Unleashed, a driving force behind the clinic.

Rabies is a deadly virus which is transmitted through the saliva of infected mammals. It can pass between species and is not uncommon in bats, raccoons, and foxes, which in turn frequently come in contact with pets. The rabies vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the virus from passing between animals and between pets and humans.

Rose Lemaster of Cat Action Team said, “under state law, all dogs and cats must be vaccinated by four months and again at the one-year mark.” At that point, they can usually move to a vaccination every three years.

Lemaster is currently undergoing post-exposure treatment for rabies after coming in contact with the dog later found to be infected shortly before it was euthanized.

Despite a few startled yelps and angry meows from some of the patients, Saturday’s event went off without incident. At one point, a white pickup truck with six dogs in the bed ran out of gas just as they were preparing to drive up to the staging area. “Well, since they’re sitting there, let’s go get those dogs vaccinated,” said Tricia Johnson, former director of the Fluvanna SPCA and current director of the Historical Society.

Johnson said this was a true collaboration between organizations like the FSPCA, Caring for Creatures, Cat Action Team, Green Dogs Unleashed and others, veterinary teams from more than a half-dozen area clinics, and Fluvanna County officials.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said the county had waived the fee to use the park for the clinic and the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office helped with traffic. Johnson was especially grateful for the help of Park and Recreation Director Aaron Spitzer, who she said had worked until past 10 o’clock the previous evening to get everything ready for the event.

By the time the event ended at noon, volunteers had delivered 439 vaccinations. “The reality is that the majority of these animals had never had a rabies vaccine before,” Ericka Proctor said later on Facebook. “This is both amazing and mind-boggling.”

Proctor said it may be necessary to hold a second clinic in the not-too-distant future, especially if more rabies cases come to light. In any case, she said that cost should never be a barrier to getting a rabies vaccine and vaccinations need to be the “new norm” for animals within the county. “Friends don’t let friends get rabies!”

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