SCDHEC Reminds Pet Owners to Keep Animals Up to Date on Rabies Shots

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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) encourages pet owners to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations. Many veterinarians across the state offer low-cost clinics, and office appointments are available all year long.

A list of low-cost clinics, as well as mobile rabies clinic providers, is available at scdhec.gov/rabies. State law requires that all pet cats, dogs, and ferrets be vaccinated for rabies and revaccinated at a frequency to provide continuous protection for the pet from rabies using a vaccine approved by the department and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although not required by state law, DHEC also strongly recommends owners vaccinate horses, livestock in frequent contact with humans, and animals used for raw milk or raw milk product production.

“Keeping your pets and livestock current on their rabies vaccination is a responsibility that comes with owning an animal,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC’s Rabies Program Team Leader. “It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, pets, and or livestock from this fatal disease. That is an investment worth making to provide yourself some peace of mind.”

In 2020, there were 168 positive cases of rabies confirmed in animals across the state including 86 raccoons, 29 skunks, 25 bats, 12 cats, 10 foxes, four bobcats, one coyote, and one cow. In total, 31 of South Carolina’s 46 counties had a laboratory-confirmed case last year. Find current and historic rabies case statistics by county on DHEC’s Rabies by the Numbers map.

“A great way to safeguard against rabies is to always give wild and stray animals their space and to educate children about the dangers of handling unknown animals,” McCollister said. “Encourage children to tell an adult if they have been bitten or scratched by an animal. All animal bites, scratches, and exposures to potentially rabid animals should be reported to DHEC by contacting your local Environmental Affairs Office.”

If your pet is found with wounds of unknown origin, please consider that your pet may have been exposed to rabies and contact your local Environmental Affairs office. Phone numbers for DHEC Environmental Affairs Offices are available online here. For after-hours or holiday assistance, call 888-847-0902 and select option two. For additional rabies information, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabiesor www.cdc/rabies.com.