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Municipalities to run rabies clinics.

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CANTON — Faced with more than $300,000 in budget cuts, the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department is increasingly relying on municipalities to administer rabies vaccination clinics.

“The county is having a lot of financial difficulties,” County Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said.

This year, Public Health will hold three rabies clinics at the Human Services Center, 80 Route 310, on June 7, Sept. 13 and Oct. 11. Most clinics for the rest of the year will be held by municipalities.

In early March, letters were sent to towns and villages asking them to participate in training seminars that would teach officials how to facilitate clinics. At least two dozen officials participated, according to Ms. Hathaway, and 13 towns and villages have agreed to host clinics this year.

“While the cost of vaccinations is $2, it’s the costs from veterinarians, handlers and syringes that increase the cost of the clinics drastically for the county,” Ms. Hathaway said.

Each clinic will cost the municipality approximately $400, although that does not include the cost of any necessary overtime pay or transportation.

“The main cost is paying a vet and handler fees,” Ms. Hathaway said. “However, if municipalities can get volunteers, then they may not have a lot of costs at all.”

Public Health will provide vaccine free of charge to the municipalities. Ms. Hathaway said some of her staff and nurses have volunteered to help towns and villages handle the animals while the vaccinations are administered. Some municipalities have put out a donation jar to offset costs.

“As we are giving the vaccinations for free, they cannot charge people for vaccinations, but they can ask for donations,” Ms. Hathaway said.

Ms. Hathaway said towns and villages are embracing the change, with some agreeing to open their clinics to residents from surrounding towns or offering to take turns hosting clinics annually.

“Our goal is to administer the vaccinations to as many pets as possible,” Ms. Hathaway said. “If animals are not immunized and it spreads to humans, the disease could be fatal if not treated immediately.”

Some municipalities intend to use the clinics as an opportunity to license dogs.

“All dogs are required to be licensed, and in order to be licensed, the owner must have proof of rabies vaccination,” Oswegatchie Town Clerk Janet M. Wheater said. “It is very convenient for some people.”

According to the latest research provided by the state Department of Health Wadsworth Laboratory, in 2010 there were five confirmed cases of rabies in animals in St. Lawrence County.

“I think it’s a beneficial system all the way around,” Lisbon Town Clerk Donna McBath said. “The animals are getting vaccinated at a lesser price than they would at a veterinarian, and, with all the donations we received, we were able to pay for our veterinarian and handler at no cost to the town.”

Clinics for May are: May 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Heuvelton Fire Hall, May 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Hammond Town Barn, May 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Star Lake Fire Hall, May 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Massena Department of Public Works and Potsdam Town Barn, May 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Russell Fire Hall, May 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Fowler Town Barn and May 23 6 to 8 p.m. at Ogdensburg Fire Department.

For a complete list of clinics, visit the Public Health website at www.co.st-lawrence.ny.us/Departments/PublicHealth/RabiesControl, call 386-2325 or call your local municipality to see if your pet is eligible to attend a clinic.

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