July 17, 2020 – When Otsego County was forced to cancel its annual free rabies vaccination clinics in April due to the “New York State on PAUSE” directive, the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SQSPCA) stepped up with a solution.
By scheduling appointments and conducting the clinics via a rear entrance to the shelter building, the SQSPCA would address social distancing concerns. The requirement of face masks or face coverings and thorough disinfection between appointments would protect visitors and staff from COVID-19 and stop the spread of germs.
Working closely with the Otsego County Department of Health, the SQSPCA began rabies vaccination clinics on-site on Wednesday, April 22. Since that time, almost 400 cats and dogs have been immunized.
“Otsego County is providing the vaccines and the tags,” said SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes. “The shelter is providing the service.”
In addition to shelter staff dedicated to the effort, several local veterinarians have stepped up to donate their time to the cause.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have caring veterinarians in our area,” Haynes said. “Dr. Julie Huntsman, Dr. Bret Meckel and Dr. Jenny Lukovsky all worked free of charge at the clinics during the peak of the pandemic in New York State to administer the rabies vaccinations.”
“It’s a pleasure and honor to work at the shelter,” added Dr. Huntsman, who subcontracts with the SQSPCA for regular veterinary services in addition to her volunteer work at the clinics. “It’s important and meaningful work, getting these animals off to a good start and, in many cases, on the road to recovery.
“The rabies clinics are another opportunity to serve,” Huntsman said. “Getting animals current on their rabies vaccine is critical to their safety and to public health. I’ve been glad to pitch in!”
The program is expected to continue at the shelter for the foreseeable future. Vaccination appointments for pet dogs, cats and ferrets are being scheduled on alternating Wednesday afternoons from 1-3 p.m. by calling (607) 547-8111, extension 108. Appointments are required and are on a first come, first served basis. There is a limit of 15 pets per person.
“We are so very happy to be in a position at this time to step up to help the county. We believe they are working hard to do the best they can for the people of this county and we want to be part of it,” Haynes said.
The SQSPCA requirements for pet owners will follow Otsego County guidelines:
- Previous rabies vaccination certificate must be presented to receive a three-year booster (NO exceptions).
- Dogs must be on a leash and under proper control.
Cats and ferrets should be in a pillow case or carrying case.
According to the Otsego County Department of Health, the vaccine being used gives one-year protection for domestic dogs and cats receiving their first vaccination and three-year protection for domestic dogs and cats receiving a booster.
“Compulsory vaccination is required for all dogs and cats in Otsego County. The incidence of confirmed positive rabies cases in wild animals continues, the most recent of which being a rabid bat in Oneonta,” said Heidi Bond, Otsego County Director of Public Health.
“Every dog and cat three months of age or older is required to be vaccinated, even pet dogs and cats that stay inside, and domesticated ferrets require vaccination each year,” Bond explained.
New York State law requires all dogs to be licensed. A license will not be issued for a time period extending beyond the date of the dog’s rabies certificate. It is also New York State law that any unvaccinated pet exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid animal be euthanized or quarantined for six months at the owner’s expense, and that any unvaccinated pet that bites be confined for 10 days at a facility at the owner’s expense.
In operation since 1917, the Susquehanna SPCA is a 501c3 charitable organization committed to caring for homeless, surrendered, and seized companion animals and finding them loving, forever homes. For more information or to donate, visit www.sqspca.org