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Rabies is on the rise in Arkansas

The Department of Health says more than 50 wild animals have already tested positive for rabies this year with two more reports coming in just today.

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Boxer-mix Pig Sooie loves socializing with new friends at the dog park. But Friday, his owner says a strange dog attacked.

"People aren't expecting to get attacked or bit by animals when they come to a dog park," said owner Avery Roberts. "They expect their dogs to be friendly."

Roberts quickly called animal control after the strange dog continued to act out.

"I have no idea whether that dog is vaccinated or not or if the dog has some kind of illness that can pass," she said.

The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting more than 50 cases of rabies the state so far this year. That's already more than the annual average and it's only April.

On March 12th, the Health Department had one confirmed case of a rabid bat found at the Old Mill in North Little Rock.

February 24th, Pulaski County workers released a presumably healthy bat from Bale Elementary School. Steven Fowler with Arkansas Game and Fish says rabid animals don't always look or act like they're carrying the virus.

"Early on, you're not going to be able to tell if they're carrying it," he said.

The first thing NLR Animal Control checked after the call to the dog park - the rabies vaccine.

"That's the main vaccine that we worry about," said Adam Tindall with NLR Animal Control.

Because according to the Health Department, pets are the only buffer we have between infected animals and your home.

"Not only is it protecting animal life, but it's protecting human life as well," said Tindall.

Bats aren't even the main culprit when it comes to carrying the rabies virus. Ground animals like skunks are the most popular wild animals to carry rabies. No cats or dogs have been reported to the Department of Health although one cow in Boone County did test positive for the virus this year.

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