Preventing rabies: 'It's a public health issue for both animals and humans'

PORTLAND, Ore. - James Christensen says his family's eight-month-old golden retriever named Basil is "all puppy."

"She'll go out and play in the yard, and then she comes in the house and the first thing she wants to do is lick our face. She's all over us giving us kisses and all kinds of things," said Christensen.

"Anything she's in contact with, we're potentially in contact with as well."

Animal health workers are issuing a strong warning to pet owners after a rabid bat was found in Clackamas County earlier this week.

"It's a public health issue for both animals and humans," said Chuck Poetz with Multnomah County Animal Services.

A Damascus family's two cats came in contact with the bat and needed to be euthanized because they never received the rabies vaccine.

Poetz says it's critical that all dog and cat owners make sure their pets get vaccinated.

The rabies vaccine is required for cats in Multnomah County, but it's not a requirement in all Oregon counties, which may be why more cats are infected statewide.

"Because cats are out and because cats will interact with a bat probably more likely than a dog would," said Dr. Paul Haughom with the Wildwood Animal Hospital. "We've seen more cases in cats.

"It's a disease that's very rare and most people, some people don't see it as a concern, and it is."

Haughom recommends all cat owners give their pet the vaccine, whether it's required where they live or not.

All dogs in Oregon are required to be vaccinated for rabies.

"You never know what you might run into at the dog park, whether other dogs have been vaccinated or what they have been in contact with," said Christensen.