Secretary of Agriculture: The Health of One Affects Us All, Maintaining Rabies Vaccines for Pets Protects Communities 

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited a free drive-through rabies clinic being hosted in partnership by the Harrisburg Humane Society, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, and Merck Animal Health in a parking lot of the Harrisburg Community College.

September 28 is World Rabies Day; a global health observance recognized to raise awareness of rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts.

“Cats and dogs are often extensions of our family. We love them for their loyalty, companionship, and the comfort they bring,” said Redding. “It is vitally important that we care for them in the same way we would our own child – take them for regular check-ups and maintain up-to-date immunizations, such as rabies. The health of our pets is connected to our own health; putting pets at risk for rabies is putting your family at risk for a fatal disease.”

Rabies is a virus of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that can affect any mammal and is widespread throughout Pennsylvania.

Rabies is a great public health concern because it can be transmitted to humans by the bite of infected animals and is nearly 100% fatal without post-exposure treatment.

Since 2000, between 350 and 500 animals in Pennsylvania annually are confirmed in a laboratory to have rabies. The most common mammals to be affected in Pennsylvania are raccoons, bats, skunks, and cats. The last diagnosed human case of rabies in Pennsylvania was in 1984.

In the parking lot of the Harrisburg Area Community College today, the Harrisburg Humane Society joined forces with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and Merck Animal Health to provide a free, drive-through rabies vaccine clinic. All dogs and cats three months of age and older are required to be vaccinated for rabies, which is most frequently spread by the bite of a rabid animal.

“Rabies is a 100% fatal disease that can be easily prevented with a simple vaccine. With Pennsylvania being a state where we know the virus is present and where we see many species succumb to infection each year (including cats), veterinarians throughout the commonwealth are very adamant about people’s pets being up to date on their rabies vaccination. Not only is it the law, but it most certainly can mean the difference between life and death for your pet,” said Dr. Bryan Langlois, veterinarian.