Rabid animals seem to be more dangerous in Cheshire now than in past years, said Animal Control Officer April Leiler. “They seem like a more aggressive, sick animal,” she said. Leiler recently spent days searching for a gray fox that was suspected of having rabies after it bit a Cheshire woman on her deck on Nichole Court.
The danger from that particular animal has now passed, Leiler said, because animals die from rabies within 7 to 10 days. The same fox, however, is suspected of biting another person on the leg, this time in Southington, before it likely succumbed to the disease, she said.
“It’s an unpredictable virus,” Leiler said. In her 14 years with the Cheshire Animal Control Division, she said she’s seen rabid animals all over town, but their reaction to humans in the past has been more docile. “I did see them sleeping on a doormat, they looked sick,” she said.
Now, the woodchucks, raccoon and skunks with rabies react differently to humans, Leiler said. “It’s as if they think, ‘I have rabies, and I’m going to chase you,’” she said.
The difference in behavior could be the dwindling number of residents who are getting their pets vaccinated, Leiler said. "Now, more are letting the rabies (shot) lapse. It could be the economy,” she added.
“It’s always a concern. If they let it slip and the animal is not vaccinated, they could come in contact with a rabid (wild) animal,” Leiler said. If that occurs, by law, the pet must be quarantined off the property for six months or euthanized.
“We’re running into no rabies shots. It’s a major concern. People have to keep their animals vaccinated,” Leiler stressed.
The state Department of Public Health reports that Cheshire had five cases of animals that tested positive for rabies in 2011, one of the highest totals in the state.