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Rabies on the rise in Massena; Sommerfield hired for rabid animal control

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MASSENA - County health officials are warning local officials rabies cases are climbing in the area, and the Massena Town Board has hired Bob Sommerfield to serve as the town’s animal control officer and respond to calls of potentially rabid animals.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray voiced his concern about the recent increase in the disease, which, if untreated, is almost always fatal.

“Rabies has increased across the county, becoming more of a problem. Of course if a rabid animal or a suspected rabid animal in the village and/or town of Massena (is reported), the animal has to be removed and sent for testing. Who will pay for that? I think typically that would fall to the town of Massena. However, I’m very concerned that we’re going to get people worrying about the rabid chipmunk in the front yard. Typically chipmunks aren’t rabid but (people) want it removed,” Mr. Gray said.

Georgette L. Davis, the town clerk, was the first to hear from Mr. Sommerfield and she shared a heart-breaking story about a dog recently infected with rabies, a case she discussed with Mr. Sommerfield.

“I said (to Mr. Sommerfield), ‘We don’t want to have everybody calling us every time a raccoons in the yard or whatever.’ His plan was, he’s only going to answer calls during the day time, and he’ll observe the animal... He actually had a rabid case this week where an animal bit a dog. It was a raccoon, actually it came through a fence and went after the dog. So, he says, ‘You know, most animals at night are going to be in people’s garbage, going in the yards or whatever.’ He says, ‘That’s natural. But any activity during the day time; you know you won’t usually find a raccoon going after somebody unless something’s wrong.’ They had to put the dog down because it didn’t have its rabies shot,” Ms. Davis said.

“So the motion is to hire Bob Sommerfield to do suspected rabid animal control for the town of Massena at a rate not to exceed $50 per animal,” Mr. Gray said.

Massena Mayor James F. Hidy told the village board earlier this week a rabid animal had been located on Depot Street in the village.

Rabies is typically spread by raccoons, skunks and bats, county health officials have said in the past.

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