The Charles County Commissioners and Charles County Animal Control Services remind citizens to take the following precautions to minimize the threat of rabies to themselves and their pets:
* Do not provide feed either intentionally or inadvertently for native mammalian wildlife species. If you feed your pets outside, you should remove all food that remains uneaten after one half hour. Any food left out, especially at night, is an invitation for wild animals, especially foxes, raccoons, opossums, and skunks. These wild animals will eventually become more accustomed to humans and domestic animals. Rabies has been in this area for many years. Wild animals, by nature, will do everything they can to avoid humans or domestic pets, feeding them (intentionally or otherwise) can alter these habits.
* Generally, a wild animal that becomes infected with the rabies virus will succumb to the disease in their natural habitat without ever coming into contact with people or their pets. Those that have become used to getting a free meal from a pet's dish or intentional feeding by people pose an entirely different threat to you and your pets. Your yard has become part of their "natural habitat."
* Make sure your dog, cat or ferret is current on its rabies vaccination. Not only are these vaccinations required by law, but they also may save your pet's life if it comes into contact with a rabid animal. (Vaccinations for other species such as horses are also available through your veterinarian, but are not required by law.)
Charles County Animal Control Officers are actively checking to ensure that every dog, cat and ferret they come into contact with or otherwise observe is current on its rabies vaccination. Citations for $50 - $100 can be issued for failure to have your cat, dog, or ferret's vaccination current. Low-cost vaccination clinics are periodically held by the Humane Society of Charles County and other organizations. For dates, times and locations, call the Humane Society in Waldorf at 301-645-8181, or the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville at 301-932-1713 or 1-800-903-1992.
* Keep your pet safe at home! The Charles County Animal Regulations define an "Animal At Large" as "Any animal off the premises of the owner, and not under the restraint [leash/lead] of a person capable of controlling the animal." An animal that is allowed to roam freely is much more likely to come into contact with other animals and either be attacked or attack these animals, either other pets, or wild animals. They are also more likely to come into contact with a strange person that may attempt to catch them and get bitten in the process, and motorists trying to avoid hitting your pet on a roadway may have an accident.
For the safety of your pet and others please keep them at home where it's safe. Charles County Animal Control Officers are on regular patrols throughout the county checking for loose animals and responding to complaints, they will impound any cat, dog or ferret observed off the owner's property. Citations for $35 - $70 can be issued for allowing your animal to run at large.
* In most instances where a pet gets into a fight and is exposed to a wild animal, the wild animal escapes and is not recovered for rabies testing. In these cases, even if your pet is current on its rabies vaccination, your pet will most likely be placed in a 45 - 60 day strict isolation quarantine. It may need to be kept kenneled or caged in a double enclosure and cannot have contact with other animals or people other than its primary caretaker. This is not a very good quality of life for your pet. Keep it home and minimize the chance that this will happen to your pet. Fines for not properly quarantining your pet can range from $100 - $500.
* Not all wild animals observed around residential areas need to be captured and tested for rabies. For assistance in making this determination, contact the Charles County Department of Environmental Health at 301-609-6751.
There are agencies that assist the public with nuisance wildlife problems. A listing of these agencies is provided by the Department of Natural Resources at (toll-free) 1-877-463-6497. Charles County Animal Control Services provides services involving domestic animals and assists the Department of Environmental Health in the event a wild animal needs to be captured for rabies testing. Call 301-609-3425 to reach Charles County Animal Control Services, or 301-932-1713 or 1-800-903-1992 to reach the Tri-County Animal Shelter.
Pets are an important part of our community. Please help us keep our County a safe, friendly place to live through responsible, humane pet ownership.