It's important to protect any pets that go outdoors from the threat of rabies, Polk County Animal Control notes. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

WINTER HAVEN – Sometimes it can take certain public agencies a while to catch up to the Internet age.
That can be particularly true for small county agencies that often are under-funded and under-staffed, and put their focus entirely on their central mission, with less of an emphasis on high-tech conveniences.
Eventually, though, they can discover the benefits that can be provided to the public through online services — and catch up to the computer era.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control Section has a new service designed to make it more convenient for residents who are pet owners to protect their cats and dogs from a serious outdoor threat — and to obey county regulations when it comes to owning pets. The Animal Control Section now has put online its purchases and renewals for rabies license tags.
Polk County has an ordinance that requires all dogs and cats four months and older to wear a county license tag at all times. The tags can be purchased from local veterinarians who sell them, or bought directly from Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control.
Per owners are also required to have a current, up-to-date certificate of rabies vaccination.
Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said the way that rabies tag licenses work is ”After pet owners vaccinate their animals against rabies, they receive notices from Animal Control thanking them for being responsible and vaccinating their pets, and giving them instructions to come to Animal Control to purchase their pets’ rabies license tags.’’
Pet owners then have two options, to visit Animal Control in person, or log on to the online renewal service via the Internet.
”Before you begin, ensure you have your Animal ID number from the reminder notice, which can be found on the left-hand side of the postcard,’’ Eleazer noted. ”If you prefer to renew in person, you can always visit Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control at 7115 de Castro Road in Winter Haven during normal office hours.’’
Those hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Customers purchasing or renewing rabies license tags online will pay an Internet processing fee that costs between $2 and $2.95, depending on the services being provided.
Pet owners who purchase a new rabies license tag will get it mailed to them once their online transaction has been confirmed, and anyone renewing an existing tag will get a receipt confirming the renewal by e-mail.
To visit the online service, log on to
Rabies can be a serious threat. Animal Control Section confirmed on Wednesday, May 16, the sixth positive rabies case in Polk County for 2012. It was discovered on Friday, May 11, when a resident of Sand Mountain Road in Fort Meade found his two dogs with a dead raccoon. The resident notified Animal Control, and the raccoon was impounded and sent for rabies testing. The raccoon was confirmed positive for rabies by the State Laboratory today.
It’s the sixth positive rabies case this year in Polk County.
The first case was reported on Thursday, Jan. 12 when a two-year old dog attacked and killed a raccoon in the 4800 block of Elam Road, Lakeland. The second case was reported on Friday, March 9 when the owners of a 9-year-old Labrador retriever found their dog barking at a bat in their yard located on Lake Tennessee Drive in Auburndale.
The third case was reported on Saturday, March 17 when three stray dogs entered onto the property located on Flood Court in Bartow and together attacked and killed a raccoon.
The fourth case got reported on Sunday, April 29, when a resident of Broken Arrow Trail, in Lakeland, found his dogs with a dead raccoon.
The fifth case was reported on Tuesday May 4, when a man encountered a bat in the driveway of his residence on Pine Street in Mulberry.
Residents are reminded that bats and raccoons are among the mammals considered to be high risk species or “rabies vector species” (RVS). Residents are urged not to approach any animal that seems to be acting in an unusual or suspicious manner.
Anyone who thinks their pet has had an “exposure” should contact the Animal Control Section at 863-499-2600.
According to the Florida Department of Health, rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented — but there is no cure for those who contract it.
The virus attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals, including people.
“Protect your pets, yourself, and your family,” DOH advises on its Web site.

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