Raccoon season has begun! Here's a press release about the first of the pests to cause trouble in South Jersey this year.  Keep your pets safe and your trash cans tightly... shut, or you may be getting a visit from mean old Rocky Raccoon!

The Atlantic County Division of Public Health has confirmed its first case of rabies this year after a raccoon collected from the 100 block of Cedar Avenue in Buena Vista Township tested positive for the viral disease on March 13, 2013.

The homeowner contacted the local animal control officer following an altercation between the raccoon and the homeowner’s dog on March 9. An investigation by the Division of Public Health found that there were no human exposures and that the dog was not current with its rabies vaccination. As a result the owner must now decide whether to place the dog under a six-month strict confinement or have the dog euthanized.

Rabies can be fatal if left untreated. Health officials said it is most common in raccoons and bats, but has also been found in foxes, skunks, cats, groundhogs and other wildlife in New Jersey. Atlantic County reported three cases of rabies in 2012 and 12 cases in 2011. Health officials remind residents about the importance of vaccinating their pets to protect them from rabies.

The Atlantic County Animal Shelter offers a free rabies vaccination clinic to residents each month at 240 Old Turnpike Road, Pleasantville. The next clinic will be held on Sunday, March 24 from 10 AM to 12 noon. Dogs must be brought on leashes and cats in carriers. For more information, call (609) 485-2345 or visit www.aclink.org/animalshelter.

If you have been bitten or exposed to an animal through a scratch or had any contact with the animal’s saliva, you should seek immediate medical attention and report the bite to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health by calling 609-645-5971.

For more information about rabies control and precautions to protect your family and your pets, please visit the county Web site at www.aclink.org/publichealth or call 609-645-5971.