TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pet owners are on high alert just south of Tucson after a Santa Cruz County Animal Control official said they're experiencing a rabies outbreak they were not expecting to see for another few years.
In October, four pet dogs had to be put down because they were exposed to rabid skunks. That brings the total number of pets, dogs and cats, euthanized because of rabies exposure in the county to 15.
Animal Care and Control Supervisor Lt. Jose Pena says it's really important for people to get their pets vaccinated for rabies because it could save their pet's lives.
"It's a really, really strong smell," said Pena as he pulled out a skunk from the back of his official animal control truck. He nabbed the skunk from inside a home during a call today.
"We set up a trap for it and caught it. The thing is there were two dogs inside that home, a fenced in yard."
He says going inside a home is strange behavior for a skunk, so they will have to kill it to see if it has rabies. Luckily for the dogs inside the house, they were vaccinated.
"If the animals were not vaccinated they probably would have to be euthanized," Pena said.
And that's the sad scenario that's playing out more often in Santa Cruz County this year. People are on high alert because 38 wild animals tested positive for rabies. 35 of them were skunks, and three of them were bats.
Pena says the last big outbreak was about 10 years ago.
"We're like three or four years early from having this kind of outbreak from happening."
County officials are going door-to-door passing out flyers reminding pet owners to vaccine their dogs and cats. He says they offer one for only $7. He wants them to take this seriously.
"The four (rabid skunks) that we had last month were in Tubac, Nogales, Rio Rico and Sonoita. The majority of them though have been up in the Tubac area."