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Rabid cat attacks 3 people, 2 dogs in Pinellas

Three people and two dogs attacked by a rabid cat are being treated for rabies, Pinellas County Animal Services officials said.

Identities of the victims were not released, but officials said the attacks occurred Tuesday on Bow Lane, off Philippe Parkway.

Animal Services experts suspect the cat was infected by a raccoon.

The people who were attacked have begun receiving a series of six vaccinations that will continue over 28 days, officials said. The animals also will receive vaccinations and be quarantined for 45 days.

Rabies, which attacks the nervous system, can be successfully treated if caught in the early stages. Untreated, it is usually fatal.

"We got a call about a cat that had attacked a gentleman," said Dr. Welch Agnew, assistant director of veterinary services for Animal Services. "We got out there to try to catch the cat and it had already attacked somebody else. That person had killed the cat."

A surveyor working in the neighborhood used his work equipment to kill the cat after it attacked him and his dog, Agnew said.

"We brought it in to the lab for testing Tuesday," he added. "Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon we got the results from the cat that it was rabid."

News of the attacks surprised residents, many of whom are dog and cat owners who allow their pets to run around outside.

RuthAnn Klovach, who said she was shocked that a cat would go after a dog, plans to keep a closer watch on her cocker spaniel Josie and Snowie, a Westie mix, when they play in the yard.

"They're going to stay on the leash until we hear further that it's clear," said Klovach. "We keep up their shots and everything but, still, they can get hurt."

Officials advise people against trying to befriend or feed wild animals. They also caution against leaving pet food outside at night. The food could attract raccoons or other wildlife.

_ Leon M. Tucker can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or tuckersptimes.com.

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