LEESBURG, Fla. – A feral cat that tested positive for rabies attacked three people, including a police officer, Sunday in Leesburg.
Officials from the Lake County Sheriff's Office said they were called to Westside Drive around 9:30 p.m. and found a brown tabby cat had been trying to get inside a residence and attacked people who tried to stop it.
"We opened the door, and it just ran inside," said a man who lives inside the home.
He said his brother screamed when the cat darted inside.
"It scratched him on the leg and in the stomach, and it bit one of my friends on the wrist," he said.
His friend and the Leesburg police officer were transported to the emergency room, where he said they had to undergo a series of painful injections to ward off rabies.
The cat was taken to the Lake County Animal Shelter, where it was put under quarantine until it was euthanized.
Lake County sheriff's spokesman John Herrell confirmed the cat tested positive for rabies Wednesday.
"I was shocked. I didn’t know it was a cat," said Kasey Crist, who lives across the street from where the attack happened.
She said roaming cats are a big problem in her neighborhood, and she wants Lake County Animal Services to help get it under control.
The Florida Department of Health issued a health alert after the incident. The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies:
• Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
• Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Lake County Sheriff’s Office Animal Enforcement at 352-343-2101.
• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
• Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
• Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
• Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.