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Free rabies shots offered to pets in Newfoundland town

January 20th, 2003, 01:59 PM
Free rabies shots offered to pets in Newfoundland town
Last Updated Tue, 14 Jan 2003 19:12:22

ST. PAUL'S, NFLD. - Animals in Newfoundland and Labrador are usually safe from rabies, but post-mortem results show the deadly disease has hit two foxes and a pet cat on the island.

Residents of the Northern Peninsula community of St. Paul's fear the cat could have infected its owners, who are being inoculated against the disease.

Foxes can pass on rabies to pets

The island was free of confirmed cases of rabies since 1989. But in Dec. 2002, a wild fox was found to be sick with the disease in the Northern Peninsula.

The conditions that allowed rabies to come to St. Paul's could have brought the disease to many other Newfoundland towns.

Ice that can stretch from Quebec to Labrador allowed foxes to cross into the province from mainland Canada. Rabies is common elsewhere in Canada; there were 450 cases in 2001.

The woods around St. Pauls's can allow outsiders to spread rabies to local pets that can then bring it home to humans.

Trapper Craig Payne handled a fox that tested positive for the disease. He said at first glace, the fox seemed healthy. But on closer inspection, it didn't have much of a stomach.
"I figured it might just be really, really hungry," said Payne. He's now getting treated against rabies.

To control the rabies outbreak, Parks Canada says it will pay to vaccinate all households pets in the area, and kill off as many foxes as possible to keep them for spreading the disease.

Written by CBC News Online staff