Raising rabies awareness

Following World Rabies Day on Sept. 28, Edgartown’s animal control officer, Betsy Buck, is raising awareness for pet owners to get their pets vaccinated.

Buck said the animal control office does not generally take wildlife calls, which should instead be referred to the environmental police. The animal control office does, however, handle rabies suspects — animals that are behaving oddly, or sick, if there’s been an exposure.

Buck recommended that if someone wakes up to bats in the house, animal control should come catch the bat and have it tested for rabies.

“People can be bit by bats and not know it, because their teeth are so tiny,” Buck said. “There’s a big concern with the bats in terms of unknown contact. When it comes to things like skunks and racoons, if you’re bitten by them, you know it.”

Those with dogs or cats should contact their veterinarian and have their animal vaccinated if they haven’t already. Once a year in March, the Animal Shelter of M.V. holds a rabies clinic that offers rabies vaccines for pets.

Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the brain and nervous system. As veterinarian Michelle Gerhard Jasny wrote in 2017, “In the United States, the most common wildlife carriers are skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats, but human exposure frequently occurs through contact with unvaccinated cats and dogs. Unless treated immediately after exposure, rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms manifest.”

If you find bats in your home, contact the communications center at 508-693-1212, who can then dispatch animal control for your town.