By the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for The Island Connection
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are urging South Carolinians not to keep wild animals as pets. To protect people and wildlife, DHEC and SCDNR have teamed up to share information about the risks of keeping wild animals as pets. Wild animals live in the wild and are not domesticated, meaning they are not tamed or kept as pets or on a farm. Keeping wild animals as pets in some cases may be illegal and puts the owner and others who encounter the animal at risk of injury or contracting diseases such as rabies. “Wild animals can be inherently dangerous, so they have the potential to seriously injure the owner, children or guests without warning through bites or scratches,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program Team Leader. . “This behavior can also be triggered when an otherwise peaceful animal is startled, injured, or sick. Animal bites and scratches can become infected, which can lead to serious illness requiring medical attention. Rabies is a fatal disease. for animals and humans. If a person is exposed to the rabies virus, their health care provider may recommend a series of injections as a treatment that helps prevent the person from getting sick with rabies. Although this treatment can save lives, the cost to receive these injections can exceed $10,000 per person.The best way to protect yourself is to do what you can to prevent possible exposure to rabies.
DHEC and SCDNR recommend that you protect yourself and others by:
• Leave wildlife alone and do not keep wild animals as “pets”.
• Do not approach an animal in need. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for the type of animal in need. Rehabilitators of deer, foxes and coyotes require a special permit issued by the SCDNR. A register of physiotherapists is available from the SCDNR.
• Contact your local animal control center for stray and feral cats and dogs, a wildlife control operator for vermin, or a rehabilitation worker for sick and injured wildlife.
• Never touch wild or stray animals with your bare hands.
• Vaccination of pets and livestock against rabies.
By law, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated. You can find cheap rabies vaccination clinics here. It is also recommended that livestock also be vaccinated against rabies. In South Carolina, the most common animals that test positive for rabies are wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that a skunk, raccoon, fox or bat that bites someone be euthanized and tested for rabies as soon as possible. While cats and dogs may be subject to observation in quarantine for a specific period of time to determine if they have contracted rabies, keeping wild animals for observation is not a safe option as it is not known how many long it takes for rabies symptoms to appear in different types. of wild animals. And since there is no approved rabies vaccine for wild animals kept as pets, even vaccinated wild animals will be treated as unvaccinated. DHEC is South Carolina’s rabies control law enforcement agency. DHEC’s Rabies Prevention Program investigates incidents involving people and animals, including pets and wildlife, to determine if rabies is a factor.
The South Carolina Rabies Control Act requires:
• Pet owners should have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated against rabies.
• Pet owners or other persons must notify DHEC if:
1) a pet or other animal has or is suspected of having rabies, or
2) a pet has been attacked or bitten by a domestic or wild animal known or suspected to have rabies.
• Health care providers report animal-related incidents (for example, a person was bitten by an animal) to DHEC.
All animal bites, scratches and exposures to potentially rabid animals should be reported to DHEC. To learn more about rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies.