Florida Department Of Health guidelines for rabies precautions – comment

Click Orlando.com report that an adopted stray cat tested positive for rabies on Merritt Island. This prompted a 60 day rabies alert in the area. As a consequence, Florida Department Of Health (FDOH) issued a list of precautions people should take to avoid rabies. They are quite interesting. I comment on them below.

Rabies
Rabies
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  • Keep pet rabies vaccinations up-to-date. This is obviously a good idea and common sense.
  • They say that pets should be kept under direct supervision at all times to avoid coming into contact with wild animals. This is interesting as well because it implies that all pets should be full-time indoor companion animals or when taken outside they should be on a leash. About 50% of people keep their cats indoors at all times in America as far as I know. The figure may be slightly less than that. Therefore 50% of cat owners are going to ignore this advice because very very few people take their domestic cat out on a leash.
  • FDOH also suggest that people should call animal control to remove any stray animals from the neighbourhood. Is this practical? It would imply that stray animals should be trapped and euthanised. This doesn’t happen in a widespread way.
  • Further advice includes the guideline that people should not feed or unintentionally attract wild animals. TNR programs are sometimes criticised for doing this. As part of TNR programs, food is put down for feral cats. This advice therefore will be ignored as far as I can tell by volunteers conducting TNR programs.
  • FDOH also advised that people should never adopt wild animals or bring them into their home. This is common sense. But there are some beautiful examples of peope adopting wild animals such as foxes and having a wonderful life together. Is this to be stopped?
  • They also advise that children should be taught not to handle unfamiliar animals either wild or domestic. I think this too is impractical. There must be some (a lot?) outdoor domestic cats in Florida. It is natural to stroke a domestic cat and children like animals. I have a strong feeling that this advice will not be followed.
  • Lastly, it is advised that bats should be prevented from entering or occupying spaces in homes and other buildings where they might come into contact with people and pets. This is obviously good advice because bats are the primary vector for rabies. However, there may be a wildlife conservation issue at play here. What I mean is that bats might in some areas be protected and it may be advised to provide them with habitat where they can thrive.

Note: Rabies avoidance advice is about reducing the risk of getting rabies for pets and people. It is a risk-reward situation. People should behave sensibly but absolute rules won’t necessarily apply.

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