VERO BEACH ― The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County is partnering with several local veterinarians to offer free rabies clinics for residents of Indian River County.

The collaboration is being held in conjunction with World Rabies Day, and is sponsored in part by pharmaceutical companies Merck and Boehringer Ingelheim, both of which donated vaccines for the event. Normally, HSVB provides rabies vaccinations for $10.

Community Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Dan’s Animal Hospital, and the Mermaid Vet Hospital are also participating.

The rabies clinics for dogs will be held on Sept. 25 from 5-7 p.m. and Sept. 26 from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. at HSVB.

Pre-registration is required at www.hsvb.org/rabies. Animal guardians must be Indian River County residents. Dogs and cats must be at least 12 weeks old. All dogs must be on a leash, and all cats must be in carriers.

In a change from prior years, rabies vaccinations for cats will be by appointment only throughout the month of October, rather than on the same day as the dogs’ drive-through clinics. Clinic Manager Amy Yeatts explained that the change was to relieve stress on the cats.

“This year we will be making appointments for those clients with cats to come to the clinic,” Ms. Yeatts told Hometown News. “We learned last year that taking the cats out of the car and into an enclosure was a bit stressful for all involved. We decided it would be a safer and a less stressful experience for the cat to come into the clinic for their vaccination.”

Cat guardians must still pre-register, after which a staff member will call to schedule an appointment.

COVID-19 has led to a few other changes.

“We will be wearing face masks and also requiring that of our clients coming through,” Ms. Yeatts said. “Even though they will be remaining in their car, we will be checking them in and having conversations with them, so to protect our team, as well as our guests, we will be requiring everyone to wear their face masks.”

Those who make appointments for cats will also be required to wear masks and social distance.

In 2019, the HSVB rabies clinics vaccinated about 200 animals. This year, they are aiming for 450 animals. As we went to press, they already had 249 animals registered, 191 dogs and 58 cats.

Rabies can be carried by bats, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, and several other wildlife species found in Indian River County.

“The most recent case was in May 2018 when a cat tested positive and the county was put on high alert,” Ms. Yeatts said. “This shows us that rabies is still a concern and that vaccinations are very important.”

According to Ms. Yeatts, the rabies vaccine is recommended to be administered at 12-16 weeks of age, then at one year, and after that every three years.

“However, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian as to their recommendations. Missing a booster, or being too long overdue, can affect the frequency of administering the vaccine.”

“We will be using a rabies vaccine labeled for three years, so if a client has proof of a one year vaccine having been given within the past year, their pet will be protected with a three year vaccine at the clinic. We are asking for proof of prior vaccination to be supplied, as this is needed in order for the vet to verify that the vaccine can be a three year vaccination.”

The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County is located at 6230 77th St., Vero Beach.

For more information, contact HSVB at (772) 388-3331 or visit www.hsvb.org/rabies to pre-register.

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