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Rabid cat attacks 3 people, 2 dogs

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."

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.

"We've also done the baiting for raccoons since '95, but we know we haven't eliminated rabies and it's probably something we will not be able to do," Agnew said. "But I think it is probably helping to keep the incidents down anyway."

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

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