When the weather is warm, we spend more time outdoors. Alas, so do cats, dogs, and wild animals. So what do we as kind, animal-loving humans do? We pet those dogs and cats and even try to befriend the wildlife. 

Maybe it’s an animal that appears injured. Maybe it’s a cute dog or cat who you want to befriend. Unfortunately, this desire can lead to dire consequences. It’s only July and we’ve already had nearly 50 animal bite and attack reports in Cowley County. Alarmingly, there are likely many more bite incidents that have not been reported. Some of the injuries have been quite serious.

Bites happen when we least expect them and are sometimes beyond the victim’s control. Unrestrained dogs are the culprit of many incidents of injury to humans as well as to other animals. Many times, however, injuries are a direct result of a person’s attempting to handle stray cats, help wildlife, and pet animals that don’t belong to you. While the fear of being bitten or scratched may be enough to make you think twice, the fear of possible rabies infection should stop you in your tracks. Animal to human rabies cases continue to be a very real danger throughout Kansas. So far in 2019, we’ve had 25 documented cases of rabies in animals. Of those, 16 were in skunks. 

But don’t think domestic animals are safe. Dogs, cats, cows, horses, and sheep are also included in that number. Remember, while rabies is 100 percent fatal, it is also 100 preventable preventable.

So what can you do to protect yourself? It’s really quite simple. Don’t try to pet or handle stray or unfamiliar animals. If you believe a wild animal is injured or needs assistance, call the authorities. Both Winfield and Arkansas City have animal control officers trained to handle these situations. If you have a problem with stray cats or a stray dog, call animal control through your local police station. 

As a pet owner, there are simple steps you can take to keep your pet, your family, your neighbors, and yourself safe. First and foremost, ensure your pet is current on all its vaccinations, including rabies. This protects your pet in the event a rabid skunk or other animal comes into contact with them. It protects your neighbors and family by ensuring your pet will not bring home a deadly virus. 

Have your pets spayed or neutered to avoid unwanted puppies or kittens, hence, reducing the chance of strays. And keep your pet in a secured fence when it is outside and on a leash during walks. This ensures it doesn’t fight with other animals, chase a child on a bike, or cause other harm to people or animals. 

For more information and tips on rabies and bite prevention, visit us at www.cowleycounty.org/health or www.cowleycounty.org/communicable-disease-control

Thomas Langer is the Cowley County Public Health Officer.

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