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County Humane Society brings low-cost animal vaccination to neighborhood outreach clinics

Oscar, a mixed-breed puppy, is held Tuesday by his owner, Brenda Valenzuela, during a vaccination clinic at Regency East mobile home park. Hawk Creek Animal Shelter helped organize the community outreach clinic, which offered low-cost pet vaccinations at Willmar's mobile home parks. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Brenda Valenzuela clutched Oscar, her mixed-breed puppy, as she waited in line Tuesday evening at the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County's neighborhood pet vaccination clinic.

Oscar let out a lengthy yelp as he was injected in the leg with rabies vaccine. He was a little more stoic for his distemper shot.

A quick trim of his nails and he was done. The Valenzuelas paid $20 for the two shots and received a rabies tag. Then they walked home through Regency Estates East with their dog.

For Bobbie Bauman, it was one more dog in town protected from two big threats to doggy health. Bauman, the animal care director at Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar, helped organize Tuesday's community outreach clinic, which brought low-cost pet vaccinations to Willmar's two mobile home parks.

A third clinic will be hosted from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at Harvest Community Church, 905 Litchfield Ave. S.W., Willmar.

This is the second year the animal shelter and the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County have gone on the road with basic preventive services for pets.

It's a service that's needed, said Bauman.

"We're finding people who can't always get to the vet," she said. For some, transportation is an issue. For others, it's the cost, she said.

Pets who aren't vaccinated run the risk of getting sick and transmitting potentially fatal diseases, such as distemper, to other animals. Rabies is an especially serious threat, not only to pets but also to people who might get bitten by an infected animal.

Human cases of rabies are rare in the United States. In the past decade, however, two people in Minnesota died from rabies -- one in 2000 and one in 2007.

Vaccination of domestic animals is seen as an important strategy for buffering the public from exposure to the rabies virus among wildlife. Last year the Minnesota Department of Health tallied 69 reports of animals that tested positive for the rabies virus. Most were skunks and bats, but the numbers also included four dogs, five cats and one horse.

"Rabies is a real threat to the community," Bauman said.

Pet owners, dogs and kids milled around Tuesday evening at the open-air clinic at Regency East. Three stations were set up, each stocked with vaccine vials and syringes. Besides rabies and distemper shots, owners also could have their pet vaccinated against bordetella if they wanted. Microchipping for $25 was available too.

A dozen volunteers, all first- and second-year students in the Ridgewater College veterinary technology program, helped hoist dogs onto the table, administer shots, trim toenails and fill out paperwork. Dr. Steve Rumsey, a veterinarian with the South 71 Veterinary Clinic in Willmar, moved through the crowd, listening to canine hearts and lungs with his stethoscope.

The entire project was organized and funded by the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County, Bauman said.

"The vaccine is what we purchased, and we hired the vet," she said.

The Valenzuelas have two other dogs besides Oscar. The other dogs have their shots but Oscar wasn't vaccinated yet, said Fernando Valenzuela. "It does add up," he said of the cost. "Coming here is way cheaper."

Mindy Emerson, one of the veterinary technology students helping at the clinic, felt it was a good turnout.

"That's the whole point -- trying to reach the people who can't afford to go to the vet," she said.

It also was good hands-on practice for the students, she said. "If you can do this in these surroundings, then you're good to go."

Bauman said about 50 pets, mostly dogs but a few cats too, were vaccinated at the two outreach clinics last year.

"That's 50 animals who maybe wouldn't have come through the doors otherwise," she said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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