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Protecting Our Pets and Protecting Our Families

The Collis family relates their encounter with the rabid raccoon last week.

Last week, in the Newport Subdivision in Lilburn, the Collis family was alerted to an intruder when Charlie, their dog, began barking and just wouldn't stop. Their son was napping, so Rachel Collis went out to put a stop to the ruckus.

"I went outside and the raccoon came out from under the deck and basically just jumped on his [Charlie's] head.  I couldn't see too well at first, and I thought our dog was killing a cat."  She and her husband ran out with a hose to spray them and break up the fight. But it wasn't a cat on the receiving end of a 55 pound dog, it was a raccoon and it "was biting [Charlie's] mouth and dug its claws into his head, and wasn't letting go, even with us spraying them," she said.

Once separated, the raccoon was still acting a bit crazy. "It definitely wasn't fearful, wouldn't go away even after we broke it up; it would growl if you walked by it," she said. The growl was a crazy sound, and though there was a discharge coming from its eyes, there was no foaming at the mouth.

Animal control was called and quickly captured the raccoon which had remained sitting on the Collis' deck. Within just a few days, they heard the news that it had tested positive for rabies and the family had to make a few decisions about Charlie. 

The Collis family recently moved, have 2 small children and another on the way. In the midst of their busy lives, vaccinations for their pets became one of the lesser priorities in their lives. The shock came when they found out that there were no tests for rabies - and no treatment. "If we had known, we wouldn't have let Charlie's shots slide," Collis said.

Not be able to afford the boarding for a 6 month quarantine for Charlie, they had no choice but to have him euthanized to protect their family and Sally, their other dog who stayed well away from the raccoon encounter. 

Rachel Collis encourages people to get their pets vaccinated. "I wish I had known more details about rabies ... meaning more specifics, besides just knowing that it's bad and makes animals go crazy.  I wish I had known there was no test or treatment ... maybe I'm in the minority on this, but maybe that's something that should be highlighted more so people understand the consequences if they don't get the shot." Sally has had her vaccinations, but the Collis family remains vigilent for the next few months. Just in case.

If you have questions or concerns about vaccinations, please contact animal control or check with your vet. 

A rabies alert was posted by Gwinnett Animal Control on June 8 based on the positive test and these warnings and information were included:

If you or your child has been bit or scratched by any stray animals or if you know of anyone handling this animal please call the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Bite Office at 770.339.3200 ext. 5576.

What does a rabid animal look like?

Rabid animals may act tame. They may also display strange or unusual behavior. They may act aggressive, avoid food and water, foam at the mouth, or have trouble moving. Stay away from any unknown animals, especially wildlife. Report any animal acting unusual to Gwinnett County Police Animal Welfare and Enforcement at 770.513.5100.

How can I help protect myself and my family from rabies?

  • Make sure your pets get their rabies shots regularly
  • Keep your pets on your property
  • Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. Food left out may attract wild or stray animals
  • Stay away from wild, sick, hurt, or dead animals. Do not pick up or move sick or hurt animals. If you find a wild, sick, or hurt animal, call Gwinnett County Police Animal Welfare and Enforcement at 770.513.5100
  • Do not keep wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes as pets. It is dangerous and also illegal
  • Teach your children not to go near, tease, or play with wild animals or strange dogs and cats
Patricia Sabin June 16, 2012 at 12:14 PM
What a terrifying experience, and so sad that they have lost their beloved dog. This is a bad year for rabies, and where there's one infected animal, there are others.
Gail Lane June 16, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Patricia, Mrs. Collis said that the Animal Control officer informed her of the same thing; there are usually others. That's why she wanted to get this story out - to advise us so we can protect our families and encourage us to vaccinate our pets.

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