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New state law requires rabies shots for pet cats

Area county boards are taking steps to prepare for a new state law Jan. 1 that requires pet owners to have their cats vaccinated for rabies.

All cat owners will be required to have cats 4 months and older vaccinated and tagged, according to the law.

A subsequent vaccination needs to be performed for a companion pet within a year of receiving its first shot.

Changes made to the Animal Control Act, which was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Aug. 9, mandates that all counties establish vaccination and registration fees for cats.

“The community should embrace this because it’s addressing the health of the community and the health of the animals,” said Happy Tails President Mark Razo. “In the long run, it’s going to help the animals in the area.”

Happy Tails is an animal shelter in Rock Falls.

No treatment exists for unvaccinated animals once they’ve been exposed to rabies, Razo said.

By state law, should an unvaccinated cat or dog be exposed to an animal with rabies, or to a potentially rabid animal that cannot be tested, the pet must be quarantined for six months, at the owner’s considerable expense.

If the owner cannot afford to quarantine their animals, the only other option is to euthanize the pet.

“Animals up to date will be examined and get another shot,” Razo said. “They get to go home and don’t have to be put down.”

The Ogle County Board passed an ordinance Sept. 17 establishing the fees to go into effect Jan. 1.

Fees for spayed or neutered cats will be $12 for 1 year or $30 for 3 years. Discounts for microchipped cats are $5 and $15 respectively.

Unaltered cat fees are $24 for one year or $70 for three years; the discounts still apply.

The Whiteside County Board established its own cat fees in 2018.

When the ordinance takes effect Jan. 1, a one-year registration will cost $8 and a three-year registration will cost $20.

The Lee County Board has acknowledged the changes in state law and touched on the need to hire an additional employee at Animal Control to help with the impending cat registration fees, but has yet to set them.