SLYVESTER -- On Saturday, Worth County residents will have the opportunity to vaccinate their dogs against rabies quickly and conveniently at no cost.
The Worth County Health Department and Best Friends Humane Society are partnering with local veterinarians Drs. Allan Gardner, Charles Land and Carie Wisell to provide rabies clinics at two sites in the county.
"For the area we are doing, we are hoping to reach out to those with financial difficulties," said Worth Environmental Health Specialist Laura Searcy. "We also are hoping to reach an area where there are a greater number of animal bites."
Service will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the type of rabies vaccine that has been donated to make the event possible, only dogs will be inoculated during the clinics -- and owners may only bring two dogs each in order provide vaccinations to the greatest number of families.
Seventy-five doses will be available at each location.
For safety reasons, all dogs must be crated or on a leash. Only Worth County residents are eligible to receive the vaccinations for their animals, so pet owners should be prepared to show proof of residency, such as a driver's license or a utility bill showing an address within the county.
A morning clinic is scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon at the Old Train Station in downtown Sylvester, and an afternoon clinic is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. at Worthy Manor Fire Station off Jewel Crowe Road-Doles Road.
Rabies is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Georgia law requires all dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies each year. Puppies and kittens over 16 weeks are required to be vaccinated.
Per the state law, pet owners can request that their pet only receive a rabies shot during a vet visit. Pets that aren't wearing up-to-date rabies tags are subject to impoundment, officials say.
"A lot of people think they can get away with it because their dogs stay inside all the time except for when they go out to use the bathroom," Searcy said. "They may come in contact with a wild animal in the short period of time they are out."
Rabies is in Georgia's wild animal population. Strays and feral animals can also carry the rabies virus. Anyone bitten by wild animals or strays is advised by officials to seek immediate medical treatment.
"Rabies is such a serious thing," Searcy said. "One of the things is that if humans aren't treated by the time they are showing symptoms, there is nothing that can be done."
People should not attempt to pet, catch, play with or keep any wild animal as a pet. Pets exposed to rabies that are not up-to-date on their shots usually have to be put to sleep, while those exposed that have been vaccinated can be treated and observed.
"It's the key to preventing a whole lot of heartache," Searcy.
It isn't unusual to see positive cases within the 14-county Southwest Public Health District. In June, a rabid fox attacked a woman on the walking trail of Darton College before attacking a woman and child at a nearby apartment complex.
Carriers of the disease include raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, bobcats and coyotes.
For more information about the upcoming clinics, call (229) 777-2168.