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Rabid Raccoons on the Rise

Two more raccoons captured in Alexandria have been verified to have rabies, according to the Virginia State laboratory.

On Aug. 9, one attacked two dogs in the 400 block of Wolfe Street, and on Aug. 4, a raccoon was captured near the intersection of Wyatt and Commonwealth avenues, according to Joseph Fiander, senior environmental specialist, Alexandria Department of Health.

A total of six rabid raccoons have been killed in Alexandria this year. The Health Department is urging residents to report any raccoon sighting to the Alexandria Animal Welfare League at 703-838-4774.

"There have been rabies in the raccoon population of Northern Virginia for over 15 years," said Robert Custard, environmental health manager, Alexandria Department of Health. "However, the incidence of rabies in the local raccoon population appears to be sharply on the increase."

Custard added, "These cases of rabies should serve as a reminder to pet owners how important it is to properly vaccinate their animals." Both state law and local ordinances require that dogs and cats over the age of 4 months be vaccinated against rabies.

"The Animal Welfare League strongly urges cat owners to keep their cats inside as a further safety precaution," said Tara Blot, executive director, Alexandria Animal Welfare League. Residents who are having trouble with wild animals in their yards, or whose pets have been exposed to wild animals, should call the League.

"Rabies in humans is a fatal disease," said Dr. Charles Konigsberg Jr., health director, City of Alexandria. "To protect themselves from rabies, citizens should be sure their pets are vaccinated and should not feed or touch wild animals."

Rabies is commonly found in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. "It's especially important that people not attract wildlife to their yards by feeding their pets outdoors," Custard said. "Storing garbage in animal-proof metal or plastic trash cans rather than in plastic bags will also reduce the number of wild animals attracted to yards," he emphasized.