A warning for all pet owners - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

A warning for all pet owners

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

It's one of those things that just slips your mind. You think to yourself that you'll get to it eventually.

Now, a warning from doctors, and pet owners, about letting your pet's rabies vaccine expire. It is a nightmare two local families never expected to be dealing with. It has taken an unbelievable financial toll.

Every time Penny Phifer visits here dogs, Moto and Skippy, at Matthews Animal Clinic, she cries. She can't touch them, and can't play with them, after a bat recently flew through her house.

"We called Animal Control thinking it was the right thing to do to report a bat in the house and when the officer came he asked if I had dogs," Phifer said.

When she said her dogs had been in the house when the bat flew through but that she was fairly certain there was no contact at all, the animal control officer asked to see proof their rabies vaccines were up to date.

"When I told them they had only recently expired he said I need to take your dogs. I asked by and he said he had to euthanize them," Phifer said.

Her only other option was six months of quarantine at the vet's office because there was a chance a tiny bat bite had gone undetected or perhaps her dogs had come in contact with bat saliva.

"It is a real emotional toll and financial toll on these people and the pets," added Dr. Ann Meadows, a veterinarian with Matthews Animal Clinic.

Pet owners are required to pay the cost of six months of boarding and at $25 a night it could cost upwards of $4,500 for one dog. Phifer and other families in the same situation have held neighborhood fundraisers and their families have pitched in but others don't have the same resources.

"We've had several situations where those owners have not been able to take that on and the animals have been euthanized," Dr. Meadows said.

There's another expense, too. The pet owners have to have their rabies shots before they can touch their quarantined dogs.

Al Piercy with the Mecklenburg County Health Department explained that each state has a different rabies quarantine law but all are similar to North Carolina's. He does recommend, when possible, that families keep the potentially rabid animal, be it a raccoon, bat or other animal known to carry the rabies virus.

"What people don't realizes is that 50% of carriers test negative and if we can test that carrier and it does come back negative, we know the family pet does not have to be quarantined," Piercy said.

He recommends pet owners visit the Centers for Disease Control website for more information. Click here to go to that section of the CDC website.

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