Rabies vaccinations not required for llamas

Rabies vaccinations not required for llamas

January 10th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Llamas are popular exotic animals that are used for activities such as carrying provsions for mountain hiking. Another llama, not the animal pictured here, exposed four people in Northwest Georgia to rabies.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

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Eric Miller hasn't vaccinated his pet llama for rabies - and Miller is a veterinarian.

"A lot of people have llamas and alpacas, and I personally don't know anyone who vaccinates," said Miller, owner of Cornerstone Veterinary Services in Rock Spring, Ga.

Area llama lovers got a shock this week with the news that a llama in Morganton, Ga., was euthanized after it contracted rabies. It spit on its caretaker, who is receiving post-exposure rabies treatment shots.

While Georgia law requires that cats, dogs and ferrets be vaccinated for rabies, there's no such rule for llamas -- or livestock.

The state rabies control manual states that "vaccinating all livestock against rabies is neither economically feasible nor justified from a public health standpoint."

However, animals that have frequent contact with humans, such as those in petting zoos or show animals, should be vaccinated, the manual states. Ditto for particularly valuable animals.

Miller explained that llamas aren't too likely to interact with wild animals that tend to carry rabies, such as raccoons and skunks.

"Llamas aren't looking for a fight. They're more or less afraid of everything," he said.

Horses are a different story. Miller makes a practice of giving rabies vaccines to his clients' horses -- especially after three area horses came down with the fatal viral infection several years ago.

"Their natural curiosity does them in," Miller said, explaining a horse will stick its nose in front of a rabid wild animal and get scratched or bitten.

Only four people came in contact with the rabid llama at a residence on Elrod Road in Morganton, said Jennifer King, spokeswoman for the six-county North Georgia Health District.

Two had only limited contact and won't need treatment, she said. One person still was being monitored Wednesday to see if a series of rabies shots is necessary.