All volunteers who have direct contact with the cats are required to have a current rabies vaccination (vaccine series or protective titer within the past 24 months). Volunteers must verify that they are currently vaccinated and sign an informed consent waiver upon check-in.
How to Prevent an Infection
Although a vaccination is not required for volunteers who do not have direct contact with the cats, it is highly recommended, since it’s almost impossible to predict circumstances that may bring a person into contact with a cat or cat saliva infected with the rabies virus.
Wear Gloves At All Times
Even if vaccinated, volunteers must wear latex or nitrile (but not vinyl) gloves at all times to protect themselves from cat saliva. Gloves should be clean, free of holes and tears, and changed when soiled or torn.
Never Handle a Conscious Cat
Under no circumstances should a volunteer handle a cat that is not anesthetized. This puts the cat at risk for euthanasia by Alachua County Animal Services if the cat bites or scratches. Any volunteer handling a conscious cat will be dismissed immediately. No volunteer who jeopardizes themselves, the cats, or the program is eligible to participate in Operation Catnip.
Never Open a Trap Unless the Cat is Fully Anesthetized
A trap containing a conscious cat should ever be opened anywhere in the building or on the clinic grounds. No volunteer should risk their own safety, or that of the animal in order to rescue an escapee.
- If a cat escapes while inside during a clinic, confinement may be attempted by corralling the animal into a small area, but absolutely no attempt should be made to catch or handle the animal without proper equipment (nets, traps, etc.), and then only by the Clinic Supervisor.
- If a cat escapes outside, the same principles apply. Traps may be placed in an attempt to trap the animal.
Where to Get a Rabies Vaccination
Rabies prevention vaccines are available from health departments, private physicians, and some plasma donation centers. The cost of the obtaining a rabies vaccine varies depending on the source, and not all health insurance companies cover it. Therefore, it is advisable to compare the costs of the pre-exposure vaccine series.