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Protect pets and yourself: Get them vaccinated 

 Charlie Benson came face-to-face with one of the two cases of rabid animals that occurred in late September in Monongalia County — the only two that have happened in 2020.

Benson, who lives on Old Cheat Road, said a groundhog “ran at me from across the driveway.” She managed to get away from the animal, which showed up a couple hours later and ran after one of her cats. The animal then attempted to attack her again.

“I didn’t know they growl,” she said. “They growl really loudly when they’re upset.” 

She shot and killed the animal, as it remained aggressive and on the attack. After leaving a message with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, she was told to contact the USDA. A representative collected the dead animal and contacted the Monongalia County Health Department. It was sent to the West Virginia Office of Laboratory Services in Charleston and was found to have  rabies.

 Benson was instructed to get rabies shots, as she was bitten by the groundhog. Though she said it didn’t break the skin, she did have another scratch on her ankle near the bite site.

 Benson said she went to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital for the first shots, and has three more left. All of her animals are vaccinated.

 Anyone who is bitten by a strange animal should go to a hospital emergency department, where their wounds can be assessed and a determination made if rabies postexposure prophylaxis should be administered, according to Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD’s executive director and county health officer.

It is the law in West Virginia for dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated no later than at the age of six months. Rabies vaccinations can be given to an animal beginning at the age of three months. Once an animal receives the first vaccine, it should get a booster one year later. After that, a booster is needed every three years.

Once animals begin to show signs of rabies, they cannot be saved. That is why it is so important to have pets vaccinated. Even an animal that is up to date on the rabies vaccine that has an encounter with a rabid animal must be re-vaccinated and observed for a period of time.

“This is a simple and safe procedure to protect you and your pet from a fatal disease,” said Dr. Diane Gross, MCHD’s regional epidemiologist and a veterinarian.

Pets that are not vaccinated for rabies who have an encounter with a rabid animal usually need to be euthanized.

Monongalia County Health Department’s website ( has information on what to do in a variety of circumstances following an encounter with a potentially rabid animal, as well as ways to keep your family, pets and property safe from wild animals.

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