Animal Bites/Rabies Investigation

Animal bites should be treated by a doctor and reported to the county health department at the time the incident occurs. To report a rabies complaint, please fill out our General Complaint form or call 425-4347.

Dog, Cat, Ferret Bites

Currently vaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets not involved in a serious or vicious attack will generally be allowed to be confined on the owner's premises and observed by the animal owner. The owner shall observe for any signs of illness in the pet and if observed during home observation, he/she should contact a veterinarian and the health department as soon as possible. The county health departments have the option of requiring a statement of health from a veterinarian on the tenth calendar day (next regular business day if the tenth day falls on a weekend or holiday) from the date of the bite incident to consider the dog, cat, or ferret released from rabies observation.

Acceptable methods of home confinement for a dog include any of the following:

  • Complete indoor housing (with strict leash walking to meet elimination needs)
  • Caging or kenneling in an enclosure with a securely latched door
  • Yard confinement with perimeter fencing that the dog is unable to climb over, or dig under.

Leashing, or "tying up" a dog is unsatisfactory unless the area is also surrounded by appropriate fencing.

Acceptable methods of home confinement for a cat or ferret include any of the following:

  • Complete indoor housing
  • Caging or kenneling in a roofed enclosure with a securely latched door, which provides ample room for food and water containers and a litter pan.

For all unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, a 10-day quarantine at a veterinary clinic or a recognized animal control facility is the standard requirement. Depending upon the time of day, the animal should be quarantined by close of business the same day, however, the time frame should not exceed twelve o'clock noon on the following day. The owner shall supply the county health department with the location where the animal will be quarantined. The owner should call to inform county health personnel of the placement of the animal.

Non-Dog, Non-Cat, Non-Ferret Bites

Bites by cold-blooded animals, such as lizards, iguanas, and snakes, etc. as well as bites by birds pose no risk for rabies, as these animals cannot support the virus. No case of rabies has been documented in any of these animals. Refer to a physician for wound evaluation and possible antibiotic treatment.

There has never been a case of human rabies acquired from a small rodent species (wild or caged) in the United States, such as a mouse, rat, mole, gerbil, hamster, guinea pig, chipmunk, prairie dog, chinchilla, hedgehog, etc. Therefore, there is no risk of rabies. Advise thorough washing of the bite wound, and refer to a physician for wound evaluation and updating of tetanus immunization, if indicated.

Cases of rabies in squirrels, rabbits, opossums, and armadillos are rare. The county public health specialist and environmental technician may make the following recommendations in these situations: there is a very small risk of rabies exposure, thoroughly wash the wound, and refer to a physician for wound evaluation and possible antibiotic treatment. However, if the circumstances of the bite are very unusual, e.g. a clearly unprovoked attack by the rodent, opossum or rabbit, or the animal was extremely aggressive or showing neurologic symptoms, recommend the animal be submitted for rabies testing. If the animal cannot be found, the health specialist may make recommendations on rabies postexposure prophylaxis.

Bats: The recent epidemiology of rabies in humans indicates transmission of rabies virus in absence of a recognized bite. Therefore, any person contacting the local health department regarding the presence of a bat in their home or office should be instructed to safely capture the bat and submit it for rabies testing. Questions regarding any possible exposure to a bat when the bat is unavailable for rabies testing should be referred to the ADS epidemiologist-on-call as soon as possible.

All other animal bites are deemed to be a potential rabies exposure.

For questions regarding Rabies/Animal Bites, please contact the specific Program Coordinator.