POTSDAM - Dealing with stray cats and dogs, bringing them back to health and ultimately providing loving homes for the animals can be a very rewarding and self-satisfying job.
Not as obvious though is the potential imminent danger that can face some of the Potsdam Humane Society employees who do not have a pre-exposure rabies vaccination, Parishville Animal Control Officer Robert Phillips Sr. told Parishville Town Board members Tuesday morning.
One thing about the animal shelter, I dont believe theres anybody down there that has pre-rabies exposure shots. I talked to Public Health two or three months ago about these girls getting shots. I havent heard a thing, Mr. Phillips said. Id get vaccinated. I wouldnt do that, I wouldnt have these cats come in and whatever, they can scratch. ... What would happen if one of those girls did come down with rabies? Could their parents or their husband or wife go back and sue the county for not vaccinating those people?
St. Lawrence County Legislator Scott M. Sutherland was also in attendance at the meeting and said that the employees safety is the Humane Societys responsibility, not the countys.
Public Health, I dont know if they have a priority list but they have so much money in the budget that people are believed to be exposed are given the shots, he said. Its up to the Potsdam Humane Society to see that their employees are ok in the workplace and safe. Its nothing to do with the county.
A full series of vaccinations would include three different shots, each costing around $250.
Mr. Phillips felt that is was critical to make the public and the board aware of the problem. Town Supervisor Jerry G. Moore said that he did not even know about the lack of vaccinations but agrees that it could be a potential problem down the road.
I just wanted to make people aware that those girls who handle these animals arent vaccinated. Maybe somebody talks to this person who talks to that person, maybe they come up with some money somewhere, Mr. Phillips said.
Mr. Phillips also said that he hopes to attend a Potsdam Town Board meeting in the near future to discuss the possibility of at least some of the workers getting vaccinated sooner rather than later.
The Humane Society staff currently consists of nine employees: kennel attendants, cleaning staff, veterinarian technicians, a receptionist and Executive Director Alysia M. Maynard.
Ms. Maynard was at the town board meeting on Tuesday and explained she is already making attempts to resolve the issue.
So far it hasnt been a problem. However, animals come in and we dont know if they have rabies so a potential threat could be there, Ms. Maynard said. Scott Sutherland gave me some contact information today and some numbers for possible discounted pre-exposure vaccination. He also assured me that in the case of post-exposure vaccination, that would be paid for.
The humane society is a not for profit agency that has contracts with several municipalities in the region.