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Local

New rules for cats in Whiteside County

As of Jan. 1, felines must have rabies vaccinations, be registered

MORRISON – To the major overhaul of its Animal Control Ordinance that took effect in June, the Whiteside County Board has added one more major regulation:

As of Jan. 1, all domesticated cats must be vaccinated for rabies and registered with the county. A 1-year registration will cost $8, a 3-year registration will cost $20.

Feral and barn cats are excluded from the requirement.

Animal Control is in the process of checking with area veterinarians to see which ones will provide the registration service and tags for cats, said Animal Control Warden James Garcia, who helped formulate the new requirements.

Vets are required by the state to do so for dogs, but not for cats.

Should an owner use a vet outside the county, or a vet who does not provide the cat registration tags, he or she must bring the pet’s vaccination record to the Animal Control office at 1701 Industrial Drive in Rock Falls and register the animal there.

Failure to do so can result in a $200 fine.

The board passed the amendment to the code on Nov. 20, in the wake of an increase in rabies statewide this year, and this summer’s discovery of the first rabid bat in Whiteside County in more than 10 years, Whiteside County Health Department Administrator Beth Fiorini said in a news release.

The new requirement is designed not only to protect the health and safety of Whiteside County residents, but also of the cats themselves: By state law, should an unvaccinated cat or dog be exposed to an animal with rabies, or to a potentially rabid animal that cannot be tested, the pet must be quarantined for 6 months, at the owner’s considerable expense, or euthanized, Fiorini said.

A cat or dog that is current with its vaccinations will need only to have a booster shot if exposed to potential rabies.

Whiteside is the 31st county in Illinois to require cats be vaccinated and registered; ​Neither Lee nor Ogle counties are among them. Nationwide, it is a requirement in 27 states, Garcia said.

In August, a Prophetstown family of six underwent a series of rabies shots after a bat found in their home tested positive for the disease. It was the first positive rabies test in Whiteside County in a decade.

Because the family’s pets – a dog and two cats – didn’t have up-to-date rabies vaccinations, they had to be euthanized.

Earlier this year, three dogs that tangled with a skunk and whose rabies records were not available had to be euthanized when the owners could not afford 6 months of quarantine. Had their rabies records been available, they could have been spared with booster shots.

In April, after 4 months of working and reworking the wording, the county board passed an expanded Animal Control ordinance that took effect June 1, giving the department more power to regulate pet hoarders and breeders, to go after animal abusers and habitual offenders, and to better control the county’s feral cat population by utilizing a trap, neuter and return program.

The rewrite, which took the number of articles in the code from two to seven, was based in part on the Illinois State Humane Care for Animals Act, and on animal control ordinances in Cook and Rock Island counties, Fiorini said at the time.

Read the changes

Click here to see the complete text of the Whiteside County Animal Control ordinance, or call 815-625-3507 for more information. The new rules are in red.

The text governing the new rabies requirement for cats will be added online by the first of the year.

 

How to prevent the spread of rabies

• Keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats and other animals you own. If a pet is exposed to a rabid animal, contact a veterinarian.

• Do not touch, feed, or attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.

• Never bring wild animals into your home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health.  Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for help.

• Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

• Maintain homes and other buildings so bats can't get inside.

• If a bat is in your home, don't release the bat outdoors until after speaking with animal control or public health officials.

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health, www.dph.illinois.gov

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