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3:16 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Rabid dog in Tucson worries local animal control<BR>

A 3-month-old puppy that tested positive for rabies and spent two days at a nationwide pet store chain is drawing concerns from Mohave County Animal Control.

The Australian shepherd mix puppy spent two days at an adoption center in a PETsMART store in a Tucson.

More than 80 people have been identified as having exposure to the animal in March, according to Mira Leslie of the state veterinarian's office in Phoenix.

The dog, which was found in Safford and taken to the pet store for adoption, was euthanized March 28.

The animal was tested positive for rabies April 2.

Because the dog was in Tucson on March 22-24 during major league baseball spring training, Mohave County residents may have been infected, said Leslie.

The PETsMART store is located on Grant and Swan roads in North Tucson.

Rabies is almost always fatal if there is no treatment.

People who handle animals, such as veterinarians and animal control officers, should get pre-exposure immunizations, Kingman Animal Control Officer Sandy Spruiell said.

Closer to this area, so far this year two foxes were tested positive for rabies in Yavapai County.

The last known rabies case in this county was in Mohave Valley.

"That's too close to home for my concern," Spruiell said of the Yavapai County cases.

Throughout the state there have been 37 cases of rabies through Wednesday, including llamas, skunks and foxes, Leslie said.

Leslie said that during each of the past two years there have been the highest numbers of rabies cases ever reported in Arizona.

One reason may be there is a better surveillance by animal control officers.

Another may be increased contact between humans and wildlife because of residential development.

"In Mohave County we are concerned with rabies in bats," Leslie said.

"Those with the disease are known to fall to the ground, and children and pets could find them."

Leslie said bats are generally nocturnal and fly around.

If someone sees a bat lying on the ground during the day, possibly paralyzed, they should contact animal control, Leslie said.

Spruiell recommends that pet owners have their animals vaccinated for rabies.

Puppies younger than 4 months do not need to be vaccinated.

How the Safford stray puppy became infected is unknown.

Animal control offers rabies shots every three months for about $8.

The first shot is good for a year with additional shots good for three years, Spruiell said.

Pets, livestock and humans can get the disease from rabid wild animals like foxes, skunks or bats.

Cattle that are infected could become dangerous by attacking people.

Horses or mules could bite or strike viciously.

People should not handle wild animals that are acting abnormally.

Examples of abnormality in animals are nocturnal animals that are out during the day, or animals that normally shun people but suddenly show no fear of humans, Spruiell said.

Pets, even those that are vaccinated, that bite a person should be quarantined for 10 days so they can be checked for rabies.

Most cases in dogs occur within 21 to 80 days after exposure but incubation could be shorter.

One recorded case of rabies in a man was an incubation period of seven years.

"It's getting pretty scary," Spruiell said.