The Washington State Department of Health is now requiring all dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies, though risk of being infected in the state is low.
The new rule went into effect January 1 and is intended to protect pet owners and residents from the potentially fatal disease. Bats are the only wild mammals in the state known to carry rabies, although any mammal can become infected with the virus.
The last reported case of rabies in an animal other than a bat in Washington was an infected cat in 2002, according to the department of health. The last reported case of a person infected with the virus in the state was in 1997.
Jack Schuman, who owns Birch Point Cat and Dog Clinic in Blaine, says he can’t remember the last time he encountered a rabies case in the area. He said it’s standard procedure to quarantine a pet exposed to the virus for 30 days, but the animals are seldom infected.
“We don’t see many cases of rabies,” Schuman said.
According to the department of health, 251 people received rabies treatment shots in 2010, though they were not necessarily infected. The cost for the full series of shots to treat a suspected rabies infection range from $1,600 to $5,000.
Rabies vaccines for people can run about $600, but vaccines for pets are considerably cheaper. Schuman said he charges $35 for a pet rabies vaccine.
If a pet has been bitten by a wild or stray animal, Schuman said owners should contact the local health department.