MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County Department of Health has announced four upcoming animal rabies immunization clinics.
The free clinics, which will be offered for all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets that are three months of age or older, are designed to raise awareness about rabies and to encourage responsible owners to vaccinate their pets.
"Rabies is a very serious disease of warm-blooded animals, which is caused by a virus," said County Executive Greg Edwards in his Monday Morning Memo. "The virus is transmitted to humans and animals through saliva and it can enter the body from a bite, scratch, scrape, or open cut."
Last year, 4,305 animals received the rabies vaccination through the clinics. If not treated, an infected animal can die within days of the onset of symptoms. The virus infects the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and ultimately death.
According to the state Department of Health, the first sign of rabies is usually a change in an animal's behavior; it may become unusually aggressive or tame. The animal may also lose fear of people and natural enemies.
Additional signs of rabies include: Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis. Most common carriers of the disease include raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.
The state health department says the best way to keep pets safe from rabies is to vaccinate and keep their shots up to date. If infected, contact your veterinarian to get medical care; a booster dose of rabies vaccine may be needed within five days of the incident.
The free clinics will take place at the following locations:
Dunkirk: Thursday; 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. City Garage, Lucas Avenue, Dunkirk.
Portland: Thursday, April 19; 5 to 7:30 p.m. Brocton Fire Hall, 80 Lake Ave., Brocton.
Pomfret: Saturday, May 12; 1 to 3 p.m. Town Barn, Chautauqua Road, Fredonia.
Arkwright: Saturday, May 19; 9 to 11 a.m. Town of Arkwright Garage, 9531 Center Road, Fredonia.
All pets will be required to be on a leash or in a cage, and owners are encouraged to bring rabies vaccination records for each animal that will be receiving a shot.
Additional clinics may be added as they are scheduled.