Nearly half of the dogs in Alabama and about four out of five cats in the state are not vaccinated for rabies. State Health Officer Don Williamson says rabies vaccinations in Alabama are declining even though rabies is spreading northward in Alabama.
Rabid land animals used to be confined largely to the southeastern quarter of the state. But Williamson says two rabid raccoons were found in Shelby County last year and one has been found this year. The discoveries mark the movement of rabid land animals into the Birmingham metropolitan area after many years of being free of the problem.
A rabid raccoon has also been found this year in Cherokee County in northeast Alabama.
Bats have been found in north Alabama before, but Williamson says rabid raccoons are the big concern because they are more likely to come in contact with dogs, cats and humans.
Sunday starts Rabies Awareness Week in Alabama. Winston Pirtle of Snowdoun, president of the Alabama Veterinary Medicine Association, says many counties will hold rabies clinics in the next few weeks. Animal owners can get their dogs and cats vaccinated for eight dollars each.