Animal Bites & Rabies


Rabies Management Area

The Wildlife Services (WS) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working to protect people and pets from the threat of rabies in your area. WS is distributing an oral rabies vaccination (ORV) bait to vaccinate raccoons, gray foxes, and coyotes and help stop the further spread of rabies. ORV baits are about the size of a matchbox and are coated with fishmeal flavoring. ORV baits can be distributed by airplane, helicopter, or car.

If you find ORV baits, leave them alone, unless they are where children or pets play. To move ORV baits safely, you should:

  • Wear gloves or use a paper towel or plastic bag when picking up the baits.
  • Toss intact baits into a wooded area or other raccoon habitat.
  • Bag and dispose of any damaged baits in the trash.
  • Take precautions by practicing proper hygiene-wash with soap and water any skin or wounds that may have come into contact with ORV baits, especially if the bait was damaged.

However, if your pet eats an ORV bait, don’t panic! Pets consuming a few baits is not harmful, although eating a large number of ORV baits may cause an upset stomach. Do not risk being bitten or being exposed to the vaccine by taking a bait away from your pet. Simply check the area where the ORV bait was found and relocate any remaining baits to a wooded area. Always notify your doctor or local health department if you are bitten by a pet or wild animal.
If you have questions about ORV baits or the National Rabies Management Program, please call APHIS Wildlife Services at 1-866-4-USDA-WS (1-866-487-3297). You can find more information about this program by visiting the APHIS Web site at
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

DISTRIBUTION PERIOD: 10/04/2010 THROUGH 10/19/2010

United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Program Aid No. 2029
Issued August 2009

Animal Bites and Scratches

What should I do if I am bitten or scratched by an animal?

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes. While it is a long time, this is effective in removing the rabies virus.
  2. Keep everyone away from the animal including your pets.
  3. Notify your family doctor regarding treatment for the wound.
  4. Check to see if your tetanus shot is up to date.
  5. Notify Animal Control (828) 649-3190 and provide animal owner information, description of the animal and its location.

Why do I have to report that my own dog or cat bit me?

To protect not only your health, but other persons as well by assuring that your pet remains healthy for 10 days after the incident.

In addition, according to North Carolina law, doctors are required to report animal bites to the health department (828) 649-3531, not to Animal Control.

Why should significant scratches also be reported?

Many animals lick their paws; especially cats and dogs, possibly putting potentially infected saliva indirect contact with their nails or claws.

Will I get my friends in trouble if I report that their pet bit or scratched me?

No. You will assure the safety of yourself and others that may come in contact with the pet by knowing that it was quarantined for 10 days and properly vaccinated.

If my pet is currently vaccinated, why is it put under quarantine?

By observing the animal for 10 days, we are assured that the pet could not have been shedding the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the bite or scratch.

Will Animal Control take my pet away from me?

Not necessarily. Home confinement is allowed if certain conditions are met. Or the pet can be quarantined at a local veterinarian’s office or the animal shelter, at the owner’s expense.

How can I know if my pet may have rabies?

Only a laboratory test of the animal’s brain tissue can diagnose Rabies. Early signs are behavioral and may include hiding, refusing to interact with family members, not “feeling good”. Other symptoms include inability to walk or stand, excessive salivation and finally convulsions and/or aggressive behavior.

Animal Bites and Rabies


Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can infect all mammals and humans. It is transmitted through contact with the saliva or nervous tissue of an infectious animal, usually through a bite. If an exposed person or animal is not treated quickly, the virus may infect the person or animal and may result in death.


The virus is shed through saliva. If infected saliva gets on a cut or scratch or into mucous membranes such as the nose or eyes, you could become infected.

Rabies is almost always fatal to animals and people once the disease appears. Immediate treatment by a doctor after exposure, possibly including a post-exposure rabies vaccination, will prevent development of the disease.

In North Carolina, rabies is most common in non-domesticated animals such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes, but has also been found in dogs, cats, horses, cattle, bats and other domesticated animals. Because it can be fatal, rabies should be considered extremely dangerous.

Some Signs To Be Aware Of:

  1. Animals may display unusual behavior, such as nocturnal animals may wander around in the daylight, or they may exhibit a marked personality change.
  2. An animal that is lethargic and poorly coordinated.
  3. An animal that may refuse food, water, or acts as if something is lodged in the throat.
  4. An animal may be hypersensitive to light or noise, or become over-excited or aggressive. This is the “biting” stage.
  5. An animal that becomes comatose and dies.
  6. Infant mammals can be born harboring the rabies virus.

Precautions to Consider

  1. Never hand-feed a wild animal, no matter how cute, friendly or tame it appears.
  2. Do not leave food or uncovered garbage outside.
  3. Consider removing feeders, especially those that attract wild mammals.
  4. Do not leave pet food and water dishes outside. If an infected wild animal uses these, saliva will be left behind.
  5. Have your dogs and cats vaccinated and keep the vaccination current.

Animal Bites and Rabies

Post-Exposure Treatment for Rabies

  1. Contact your doctor or the health department (828) 649-3531 for an examination and shots if needed.
  2. The health department and Animal Control will investigate the animal bites.
  3. Animal Control will submit unvaccinated, expired animals to a diagnostic lab for rabies testing.

Vaccinating Pets

Although the majority of rabies cases occur in wildlife, most humans are given rabies vaccine as a result of exposure to domestic animals. While wildlife are more likely to be rabid than are domestic animals in the United States, the amount of human contact with domestic animals greatly exceeds the amount of contact with wildlife. Your pets and domestic animals can be infected when they are bitten by rabid wild animals. Therefore, pets should be vaccinated by your veterinarian to prevent them from acquiring the disease and thereby transmitting it to humans.

Dangerous Dogs

Every local North Carolina government has probably faced the problem of a dog that is threatening or dangerous to people or animals. State law provides a framework for handling these situations.

According to statutory definition, the term dangerous dog is one that:

  1. is owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dogfighting;
  2. is trained for dogfighting;
  3. has, without provocation, killed or inflicted sever injury on a person; or
  4. is determined to be potentially dangerous by a person or board authorized by a local government to make such judgments.

Animal Control will investigate the complaint, collecting evidence to substantiate the complaint. This report is given to the health director who in turn notifies the owner of such animals stating that unless the owner requests an appeal, their animal will be designated as “potentially dangerous”. If the owner accepts the designation, the animal in question must be secured at all times and kept on a leash and muzzled when off of the owner’s property.

If the owner requests an appeal of this designation, a hearing is scheduled by the Madison County Animal Control Board. This board has been designated as the board to handle such appeals.

For questions, contact

Madison County Animal Control (828) 649-3190 or

Madison County Health Department (828) 649-3531

Animal Bites and Rabies