A person trying to help a feral cat was bitten by him/her and it transpired that this cat had rabies and had been through the TNR program and had been vaccinated for rabies (TNVR). It raises questions regarding public health, TNVR and how to deal with feral cats.
This is a TNR story which exposes supporters of feral cat trap-neutered-release programs to criticism from people who would prefer to see them killed and eliminated.
I feel that I must write about it because we must look at all aspects of feral cat care both good and bad and see whether improvements can be made. But please click on this LINK to read an answer to the question: are feral cats a health hazard?
The story concerns a feral cat. We know that the cat was feral because he had a tipped ear (the top of his ear had been cut to indicate that he had been through the TNR process). In fact he had been trapped-neutered-vaccinated for rabies and released.
The vaccination for rabies is a one-off event with respect to feral cats. There are no follow-up boosters as is recommended for domestic cats. This is a weakness which has been criticised.
Update 12th June:
See Christine’s comment below (Facebook):
“Please get a copy of the State Dept of Ag report confirming the cat in fact had contracyed rabies. Studies indicate rabies vacconations do in fact provide LIFETIME immunity….”
Further update 13th June:
I have a suspicion that this story may have been planted to undermine TNR. Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society has a witch hunt against TNR we are told. There is another article on this site which is also based on a story which undermines TNR and the same people may be behind that.
Also, we do not know who conducted the TNR program with respect to this individual cat. This took place in Hillsborough County, Florida but the people involved in TNR in that area cannot say which organisation or group treated this particular cat. Each month, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay in association with the Pet Resources Centre TNRs and vaccinates hundreds of feral cats.
It’s about keeping records I suppose. It is said that there is little accountability because we don’t know who was involved.
The feral cat would have been vaccinated for rabies and immediately released. As it takes 28 days for the rabies vaccine to take effect there is a 28 day window during which the cat could be bitten by an infected wild animal and become infected himself.
“If you have an animal that’s living in the wild, a feral animal, that was vaccinated and it comes in contact with another animal that has rabies within that 28 day period, it could definitely happen” (Steve Huard-Department Of Health).
Therefore, in an ideal world, feral cats vaccinated for rabies should be held in quarantine the 28 days before being released. That is clearly impractical or I would have thought so.
The argument is that Hillsborough County is risking public safety because they’re putting feral cats back onto the street and they become a potential source of rabies infection to humans.
Huard states that the Department Of Health’s position and recommendations on TNR is not good for public health. This then is the old age problem of how TNR programs are perceived by some as being a public health concern. Of course the counterargument is that TNR gradually eliminates feral cat populations thereby reducing the concern. Killing feral cats does the same thing but less effectively.
However, the former is a slow-moving, humane but long-term solution to the feral cat problem while the latter is perceived as an instant but inhumane remedy. People like quick fixes. The trouble is that when something like this happens the quick fix look better. This then damages the reputation of TNR programs.
Comment: it could be argued that the TNR program is irrelevant in this instance. If this cat had not passed through a TNR program he would have been bitten by a rabid animal in any case and caught the infection. Therefore TNR had no impact on that consequence. However, the critics would say that if the cat had been euthanised he would not have been a carrier of rabies and therefore would not have been a public health concern.
There is also the argument that cats are rarely involved with passing rabies to people. Raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are the maine carriers. Also in the USA there are just 3 rabies fatalities a year nationwide. The benefit of TNR outweighs the tiny possibility of getting rabies from a feral cat. It should be added that nobody has caught rabies from a cat for the past 40 years. The rabies control programmes in America are excellent. You can read much more about the greatly overhyped human health issues of feral cats on this page.
P.S. I can’t verify that the cat concerned had rabies. I think it needs to be verified because I don’t trust news media especially on these anti-feral cat issues.
Source: Click here