Archived Story

Animal control undertakes census

Published 5:19pm Sunday, May 20, 2012

ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County Animal Control’s door-to-door census started Monday and is expected to last all summer.

Director Valarie Grimes is alerting residents about rabies with an infected bat confirmed in Bridgman and also surveying citizens for opinions on licensing cats.

As she told the Board of Commissioners Administration Committee Thursday morning, “(Warm winter) weather is the key to this whole thing because nothing died off.”

All dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies, which even indoor cats can get. Consult your veterinarian about vaccination of sheep, cattle and horses. In general, any pet or livestock possibly exposed to rabies should be reported to your vet.

The viral disease attacks the nervous system and is virtually always fatal.

Most commonly found in bats, skunks, foxes and raccoon, unvaccinated pets or livestock can also be infected.

Rabies spreads when an animal or human is bitten or scratched by an infected animal or if an infected animal’s saliva comes in contact with broken skin or mucous membranes.

It is not always possible to determine an animal is infected with rabies by simple observation. Signs in an animal which should lead someone to suspect it may be rabid include nervousness, aggressiveness, excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth and abnormal behavior, such as wild animals losing fear of humans or animals that are normally active at night appearing during the day.

If bitten or scratched, immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and water. Capture the animal, if possible, so it can be checked. If an animal must be killed, do not damage its head. Rabies testing is done on the brain.

When dealing with a dead animal, wear gloves or use a shovel to move the body. Clean the area and any tools used to remove the animal with one part bleach to 10 parts water. Do not delay seeking medical advice. Treatment no longer involves painful abdominal shots.

“The reason I am so concerned,” Grimes said, “is we had two rabid bats in ’10” and none last year. “One was in Niles and the other was on the north side of Benton Harbor where a gentleman stepped on the bat in a garage. We usually don’t start seeing issues with bats until June, July, August and September. This one was in March when the warm weather hit. Rabies can lay dormant in the body for 48 months. If you find a bat in the house in a sleeping area, even hanging on a drape by the couch, have it tested because you can be bitten without realizing it.”

Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin vaccination laws cover only dogs. Indiana has vaccination laws for dogs and cats. But Ohio has no vaccination laws for either.

Licenses sold January-April, 2011, made $147,032.50, compared to $136,441.50 for the same 2012 period.

Should cats be licensed?

Berrien County Animal Control is conducting a cat survey as part of this summer’s countywide census.

As they knock on each and every door, residents are being asked how many cats they own, whether cats should be licensed, whether farm cats should be licensed and how much licenses should cost.

Director Val Grimes told county commissioners May 17, “We are done from the top of the county to Hagar Shore. People are responding very well to us. Better than 80 percent of people so far think they should be licensed at the same cost as dogs.”

Animal Control census

A pink hang-tag notifies residents who are not home that Animal Control stopped by and asks them to call the shelter at 9204 Huckleberry Lane, Berrien Center at (269) 471-7531. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Turn the tag over and it spells out adoption fees (dogs, $25, plus a $25 neuter deposit; cats, $5 plus a $25 neuter deposit; $10 to adopt an already-altered feline); license fees, Dec. 1-March 1, one year un-neutered, $25; one year neutered, $10; and, after March 1, one year un-neutered, $45; and one year neutered, $30.

Michigan law requires that on or before March 1 an owner of any dog 4 months or older must apply to Animal Control or their county, township or city treasurer where they reside for a dog license for each canine owned or kept. Such application shall be accompanied by proof of a valid certificate of rabies vaccination for each dog signed by an accredited veterinarian.

There is a $20 late fee. Deputies issue written warnings, with five days to comply.

If no license is purchased in seven days, a citation is issued.

State law also decrees animals shall not run at large. Persons who violate this section are guilty of a misdemeanor.

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

Editor's Picks