Rabies warning for Aiken County

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News 12 at 11 o'clock; March 24, 2008

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. --- There's a warning out, especially aimed at pet owners. Make sure your pets are vaccinated for rabies. It's a lesson one family learned the hard way.

The Bafford family loved their dog Maggie. But, they were behind with Maggie's rabies vaccination shots. Now, Maggie is gone forever.

For 8 years of her life, Margaret Bafford and Maggie were friends.

"I'd come home and it run up and jump on me. We used to play with it all the time and now we can't. It just feels weird," says Margaret.

Feeling weird, because her friend is gone after a deadly disease - rabies - hits home. A rabid raccoon is to blame.

News 12 saying, "You said the night before, the raccoon was in this tree?"

Margaret answering, "Yeah, he was up there." She adds, "the next morning when I was getting ready for school, I heard the dogs barking. We looked outside. Both of my dogs were under (the deck) biting at something. But, we didn't know what. The next few minutes, we saw the dogs out here dragging a raccoon, everywhere."

She saw it all from the kitchen window.

"My dad was out here squirting the dog and raccoon with water. We had a broom out here, he kept hitting the ground to get them to stop. But, my dog wouldn't let up on that raccoon," says Margaret.

Maggie, she never came back into the house.

"She stayed under (the) deck (in the backyard). She just stayed there till Thursday," says Margaret.

That's when this family found out, Maggie had rabies. The last time she was vaccinated was in 2003, she should have been vaccinated about 2 years ago. The family says, they didn't get their usual vaccination reminder.

Michael Strauss works with animal control in North Augusta. It's the first case he's seen in about 3 years. He says people can get shots too.

"A lot of people will get shots for the animals but forget the ones that are probably the most important to you - that's the rabies vaccine, because rabies can kill you," says Michael.

That's a lesson that hit home hard for the Bafford family.

"It was heartbreaking because we've had the dog for so long, so many memories with it," says Margaret.

Here's a heads up to you pet owners: you should get a tag and a certificate saying you're pet has the shot. Any questions, just call your vet.

There is a human rabies vaccine you can get. It's a series of three shots, all made to protect yourself.

You might know if your pet has rabies by checking for these signs:
-if it is a house pet, it would look drunk and be vicious. It would be acting differently than normal. '
-if you see a wild animal around during the day -- whether it is a raccoon or something else -- you should beware.