CRANBURY, NJ – Break out the cat carrier or clip on Fido's leash: after years of marking the March calendar for the winter rabies clinic, the township is trying something new this year.

To better align with the January pet licensing requirement, the township's first rabies clinic of the year will be held this Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m., at the firehouse on Main Street.

Township Board of Health Chair Cheryl Coyle said that the reason for the change was to make licensing easier for pet owners.

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“We thought that the timing would work better with the requirement that the vaccine has to be valid for 10 months,” she said. “We have agreement with the new vet to be able to do that.”

During its Dec. 5 meeting, the board discussed the results of the previous rabies clinic, which was held Sept. 17.

Dr. Beshoy Rafla conducted his first township rabies clinic at that time, since his appointment as township veterinarian upon the retirement of Dr. Michael E. Young, of Cranbury Animal Hospital.

Dr. Rafla is the current owner of that animal hospital, having purchased it May 26.

According to comments made by board members at the meeting, Dr. Rafla refused to vaccinate cats with the county-provided rabies vaccine because it went against his “philosophy.”

He instead provided his own rabies vaccine for the cats, board members said.

According to board member and veterinarian Dr. Laura Collins, Dr. Rafla used a type of vaccine known as PUREVAX on the cats at the last rabies clinic.

PUREVAX vaccines were developed without the use of adjuvants, according to manufacturer Merial, a global animal health company with North American headquarters in Duluth, Georgia. Adjuvants are substances that are added to vaccines to increase the body's immune response to the vaccine, according to the company.

Between one in 1,000 and one in 10,000 cats will develop a tumor at the injection site when an adjuvanted vaccine is used, Dr. Collins said.

“I think he was reluctant to use the regular (county-provided) rabies vaccine in cats because of that risk,” she said.

In past clinics, the county-provided rabies vaccine gave dogs and cats three-year protection, according to previous township-issued rabies certificates.

Dr. Collins said the vaccine Dr. Rafla used on the cats at the September clinic was the one-year version of the PUREVAX rabies vaccine.

Board members said they would inquire at the county level about getting the PUREVAX rabies vaccine for cats to use at future clinics.

Dr. Rafla did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The rabies clinic is free of charge and is sponsored by Middlesex County.

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