In response to an uptick in rabies cases across the state, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has stressed that owners should vaccinate their pets as soon as possible.

Rabies Clinics in Aiken County schedule:

Saturday, March 22

Aiken Animal Hospital, 1181 Banks Mill Road - 8 to 11 a.m.

Family Pet Practice, 794 Augusta Road, Warrenville - 9 to 11 a.m.

Aiken Co. Animal Shelter, 3411 Wire Road - 9 to 11 a.m.

Veterinary Services, 1721 Whisk Road - 9 a.m. to noon.

Wagener Old Town Hall Site - 1 to 2 p.m.

Salley Civic Center (old school) - 3 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, March 29

New Ellenton Civic Center - 8 to 11 a.m.

Family Pet Practice, 106 Main Street, Warrenville - 9 to 11 a.m.

Jackson Town Hall, 106 Main Street, Jackson - 1 to 3 p.m.

Langley Pentecostal Holiness, Ch. 2559 Augusta Road, Langley - 1 to 2 p.m.

Saturday, April 5

Family Pet Practice, 794 Augusta Road, Warrenville - 9 to 11 a.m.

SPCA, 199 Willow Run Road - 9 to 11 a.m.

Windsor Recreation Center - 1 to 3 p.m.

Masonic Shopping Center, Graniteville - 1 to 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 12

Family Pet Practice, 794 Augusta Road, Warrenville - 9 to 11 a.m.

Saturday, April 26

Family Pet Practice, 794 Augusta Road, Warrenville - 9 to 10 a.m.

North Augusta Magistrate’s Office, 537 Edgefield Road - 9 to 11 a.m.

Second Baptist Church of Beech Island, Beech Island Ave. - 10 a.m. to noon.

Center Fire Department, Columbia Hwy - 1 to 3 p.m.

Langley Community Center, 2724 Augusta Road, Langley - 2 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 3

Aiken Animal Hospital, 1181 Banks Mill Road - 8 to 10 a.m.

Aiken Veterinarian Clinic, 1316 Richland Ave. E. - 9 a.m. to noon

Bath Water Works, 115 School Road, Burnettown - 2 to 4 p.m.

Aiken County already has one confirmed rabies case for a cat this year, out of a total 25 throughout the state. Last year, Aiken County had six confirmed cases of rabies in animals; two of those were raccoons. A total of 123 confirmed cases were reported across the state.

“We’re already getting cases of rabies reported to us, and the counts are going up,” Jim Beasley with media relations for SCDHEC said. “... It’s the law. Vaccinate your pets, whether dog or cat. It’s bad enough to have foxes, raccoons or bats in the wild that can carry it. If you have a pet, you can stop the transmission.”

Rabies is a virus that attacks nerves in the spinal cord and brain, and can be passed to a healthy animal or person by the saliva of an animal with late-stage rabies if it gets into a cut or wound.

In South Carolina, rabies is found most in skunks, bats, foxes and raccoons, according to SCDHEC. Each year, between 15,000 and 39,0000 Americans are vaccinated for rabies as a precaution after being bitten by mostly unvaccinated dogs.

Cats, dogs and ferrets should be vaccinated on a routine basis. The vaccine can be administered by a veterinarian. State law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease.

Lisa Finn, with Aiken Animal Hospital, said the rabies vaccination clinics will start this Saturday and run through Saturday, May 3.

“The clinics are open to the public with different doctors hosting,” Finn said. “The rabies vaccine can be up to $10, but prices are up to the doctor’s discretion.”

Even if residents cannot take advantage of the clinics, some point soon, owners must vaccinate their pets, Beasley said.

“At least see if you need to vaccinate your pet,” Beasley said. “It protects people’s health by protecting pets’ health.”

If residents do come in contact with stray or wild animals behaving aggressively or abnormally, the state health department urges people not to handle them. Instead, call Aiken Public Safety’s Animal Control Division at 803-642-7620 if in the city limits, or Aiken County Animal Control at 803-642-1537.

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Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.