SPCA helps Polk County pets stay safe

The SPCA is helping pet owners in Polk County better protect their animals by providing free rabies vaccines.

On Sunday, the SPCA hosted a rabies vaccine clinic at the Florida Adoption Center in Lakeland. Veterinarians checked animals for other illnesses, like the parvo virus, upon request.

"We had a pretty long line before we even opened the event, but we still have many, many vaccines available," said Hope Bogel, event coordinator for the SPCA.

Since the start of 2015, there have been three confirmed cases of rabies in Polk County. Two pet dogs came in contact with rabid raccoons in May. A woman was attacked by a rabid fox in June. She had to undergo a series of shots for treatment.

"We take our dogs occasionally to the kennel and stuff, so we thought it might be a good idea to have them vaccinated for the rabies," said Darren Brantley, who brought his dogs Brooklyn, Ottie and Madison to get vaccinated on Sunday.

He said the more pet owners who get their animals vaccinated, the safer it is for everyone who interacts with animals.

"It will protect the rest of us. We wouldn't have to worry about rabies just from having our dogs interact with other people's dogs," said Brantley.

"I actually work at a kennel, so being that I have that experience and see what dogs can come in with, you just want to keep your dogs vaccinated," advised George Coleman.

Animals are not fully protected from rabies until 28 days after vaccination. The vaccine is typically effective for one year.

According to veterinarians, it's important for pet owners to keep their animals up-to-date on the rabies vaccine, because the deadly virus can spread quickly.

Both pets and people should avoid wildlife, even if the animal appears tame. Anyone who comes in contact with an animal exhibiting strange behavior should contact Polk County Animal Control.