HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. — Habersham County officials euthanized more than a dozen cats after one of the animals tested positive for rabies.
On June 18, Habersham County Animal Care and Control was contacted by a concerned citizen who said they came across a cat that was “acting aggressively.”
After they determined the cat’s location, Animal Control contacted an “owner” off Cannon Bridge Road just outside Demorest the next day.
The resident told authorities the cat was a stray they had been feeding. They also told authorities that the cat had bitten them two days before being contacted by animal control.
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While they were conducting their investigation, animal control officials located the cat in question and determined it was dead.
During the investigation, authorities found many “feeding stations” throughout the property and a colony of unvaccinated cats that hadn’t been fixed.
The resident told animal control that the cats were being fed on the property and had been unmanaged for over two years.
“People never seem to understand why HCACC does not condone the free feeding and non-management of feral cats,” said HCACC Director Madi Nix. “We love cats. Nothing destroys us more than situations like this where the unnecessary deaths of animals could have been prevented.”
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Officials sent the dead cat to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention State Laboratory for testing, which confirmed the cat had rabies.
Authorities said they decided to euthanize the remainder of the colony on the property where the rabid cat was found.
“Due to the number of unvaccinated cats that been allowed by the “owner” to reproduce and remain on the property unvaccinated, the risk to human safety and the safety of all animals, the heartbreaking decision to be forced to humanely euthanize all unvaccinated free-roaming cats on the property, including kittens,” authorities said.
As of Thursday, 18 cats, including the cat who tested positive for rabies, have been removed and euthanized, according to authorities.
Deputies are still working to capture the remaining cats to prevent the spread of the disease.
“The most common thing we hear when residents request the removal of entire colonies is that one cat showed up, and they didn’t want that one cat to starve, so they fed it,” Nix said. “Then it invited its friends. Then they reproduced. Then those cats reproduced. It’s not until a situation becomes ‘out of control’ that we are asked to step in, and by that time, it is often too late. The time for action is when one shows up, not two years later. When 46,000 residents wait until that ‘one cat’ turns into 50, we cannot keep up. Or in this situation, animals’ lives were needlessly created and then lost unnecessarily. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sob all the way home. This was an extremely difficult day for us.”
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In addition to vaccinating all pets for rabies, there are several steps residents can take to protect themselves and their pets:
- Avoid wildlife and unfamiliar animals.
- Do not allow pets to roam; they can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
- Never feed or touch wild animals, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, or foxes.
- Seek medical attention immediately if bitten or exposed to the saliva of a wild animal.
- ·Contact a veterinarian if a pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk, or other wild carnivore.
- Do not encourage the feeding of unmanaged cat colonies. For those who choose to feed cats, ensure they are part of a trap/neuter/release colony and have been vaccinated for rabies.
For more information about rabies, click here.
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