McKamey Animal Center is offering low-cost vaccinations on Wellness Wednesdays to improve immunity for the community's dog and cat population. People can bring their pets on Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to these vaccination clinics.
McKamey is able to offer this limited-time opportunity through a American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals grant. The vaccination is $10 per pet. For indigent families, proof of government housing or food stamps is required for one's pet to receive a free rabies vaccination.
"We noticed a lot of people were relinquishing pets because they could not afford vaccinations," said McKamey Animal Center Executive Director Karen Walsh. "It's state law to vaccinate your pet for rabies. It protects people, because once a person gets rabies and exhibits symptoms they die. Animals like skunks, bats and raccoons carry rabies."
She said there are two types of rabies of which animals may show signs. One is "furious rabies" in which the animal foams at the mouth, but another is a less serious form in whichthe animal staggers around as if drunk.
She said if a person's unvaccinated pet bites someone else, the pet must be quarantined for 10 days at a shelter. The fee for this typically runs $150.
She said shots dogs must have annually include rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvo. Shots cats must have annually include rabies and feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. Dogs should also be tested for heartworms and take a monthly heartworm preventative pill.
"There's this whole part of the community that does not vaccinate," said Walsh. "We had four bats that tested positive for rabies in Hamilton County in 2011. A dog could be bitten by a bat and the marks are so small that it might not be seen."
She said if a person gets bit by an animal, he or she should go directly to the nearest hospital for treatment to be safe. If treatment is administered right away, the person could survive.
"Rabies vaccinations are not just a benefit to your pet, they help protect the whole community from this deadly disease," said Walsh. "Rabies exists in our wild animal population in Tennessee. Prevention is the key to our community's safety."
She said rabies clinics will be popping up throughout Hamilton County in April, so pet owners can stop by those as well.
"It's your pet, it's your responsibility," said Walsh. "Be responsible Chattanooga; care for your pet today."
McKamey continues to use its ASPCA Grant for Bully Blockade as well to spay and neuter local pit bulls free of charge.
"About 42 percent of the dogs we get at McKamey are pit bulls or pit mixes," said Walsh. "It's a supply and demand issue. If we could reduce the number of pit bulls it would be easier to have space for more dogs to adopt."