Bites and Rabies - Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do if you are bitten by an animal?

Donate Today! OurAnimal Assistance Fund benefits animals in our community. Any warm-blooded animal, (dog, cat, skunk, fox, bat, etc.), may have rabies. Any animal bite should be treated as serious. The following precautions should be taken if you are bitten:
  • Identify the animal. If it is an owned dog or cat, it may be quarantined and observed for signs of rabies. If it is a wild carnivore or bat, a qualified person should separate the animal head from the body and submit the head (or whole body of a bat) for laboratory testing.
  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water.
  • Consult a physician as soon as possible to determine whether anti-rabies treatment is needed.

When an animal bites a person, who is in charge?

  • All cities, towns, and counties must designate someone to handle animal bite cases. This person is the Rabies Control Authority (RCA) for animal bite cases. Contact (972) 721-2256 to report animal bites in Irving.
  • This person can be an Animal Services officer, peace officer, municipal health officer, county health officer or any other person that can appropriately carry out the duties of the RCA.
  • The duties of the RCA are to enforce the Rabies Control Act (Chapter 826 of the Texas Health and Safety Code), including the Rules of the Texas Board of Health, and to enforce the local ordinances and/or rules pertaining to Animal Services.
  • The RCA is responsible for investigating animal bites and for the proper management of the biting animal.

What happens to the animal that bites someone?

  • Dog and Cats (Domestic)
    Regardless of vaccination status, the dog or cat must be quarantined for 10 days or humanely destroyed. If humanely destroyed, the brain must not be damaged as it must be submitted to a rabies laboratory for testing. If the animal is to be quarantined, the 10-day observation period begins on the day the bite occurred.
  • High-Risk Animals
    Skunks, bats, foxes, coyotes and raccoons must be humanely destroyed. Their head will be submitted for rabies testing.
  • Low-Risk Animals
    Opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats and armadillos do not need to be quarantined or tested unless the RCA has reason to believe that the biting animal has rabies.
  • Other Biting Animals
    All biting animals, high- or low-risk, that are not categorized as domestic dogs or cats should be humanely destroyed and tested. However, current rules allow a 30-day quarantine as an alternative to testing.

What is quarantine?

Quarantine means placing the animal in a facility which provides:

  1. Absolute security (no escape possible)
  2. Isolation (no contact with other animals or persons)
  3. Daily observation by a qualified person.

Quarantine must be in one of the following facilities:

  1. An animal shelter with quarantine facilities approved by the Texas Department of Health (TDH).
  2. A Veterinary clinic operated by a licensed veterinarian.

The TDH is responsible for inspection of all quarantine facilities in an animal shelter, however, the RCA is responsible for the proper handling and observation of all animals being quarantined.

What if the animal gets sick while in quarantine?

The animal should be examined by a veterinarian and if it is determined that it shows clinical signs of rabies, the RCA must submit the head for testing. The bite victim should be notified if the animal becomes sick, so that consultation on rabies treatment will be obtained. If the animal dies, the head must be removed and tested for rabies.

Who pays for quarantine?

The owner of the biting animal is required by state law to pay the cost of the quarantine.

Rabies

More questions and answers about rabies: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/

Man and all mammals are susceptible to rabies, which is almost invariably fatal.

The disease is transmitted by an infected animal's biting or licking. The virus enters the victim's body through a break in the skin, or rarely, through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, throat).

Rabies affects the central nervous system. It may take from ten days to over a year to develop. However, exposed people can be successfully treated before the development of symptoms by a series of vaccinations.

Rabies infection is detected by laboratory examination of the suspect brain tissue.

Wildlife rabies is a major source of infection for domestic animals, including pets. This disease may be transmitted to man either by infected wild or domestic animals.

Contrary to popular belief, rabies occurs in all seasons and in all sections of the country.

What to watch out for

Bold, friendly, or apparently tame wild animals. Night animals, like skunks and foxes, that are seen in the daytime. Pets that have difficulty walking, eating or drinking. Signs of excitement or viciousness in normally quiet animals. Animals that tear at or scratch an old wound until it bleeds. Cattle that strain for long periods. Bats that are unable to fly.

In the early stages, the personality of pets may change. A normally friendly dog may stay alone, another may begin to seek more attention. Some animals scratch at the place virus entered their bodies. Later symptoms follow a furious pattern, a dumb (paralytic) pattern or a combination of both.

If you are bitten by an animal, treat the bite as if the animal were rabid, and follow these steps. They may save your life.

  1. Identify the animal by kind, size, color and place. Caution children to seek the help of a policeman, school guard or other adult.
  2. Quickly and thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water and rinse well, and put alcohol or iodine on it to kill germs.
  3. See a doctor as soon as possible. He will decide on what you might need to do to avoid rabies.
  4. Report incident to the local health officer and Animal Services agency. In Irving, call (972) 721-2256.
  5. Have the biting dog or cat tested for rabies or quarantined for 10 days. Wild animals will be tested immediately.

Steps toward community control of rabies

  1. Owners of dogs should be required by law to have their pets tagged, registered and licensed.
  2. Owners of dogs and cats are required by law to get rabies shots and tags for their pets every year.
  3. Irving provides a city animal shelter and Animal Services officers, and all stray animals are kept in the shelter until adopted or until destroyed according to city law.
  4. Unvaccinated dogs and cats bitten by a rabid animal are humanely put down immediately.
  5. All citizens should support community officials in controlling wildlife and stray dogs and cats.

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The animal welfare community is vibrant and passionate about saving the lives of countless homeless pets. These persons and organizations, located throughout our city and nation, provide foster homes, transport animals, promote the adoption of animals, post pictures on websites, and assist shelters in numerous other ways. Irving Animal Services works with the animal welfare community to place Irving Animal Care Campus animals into loving homes. While Irving Animal Services is appreciative of the efforts of the individuals and organizations that comprise the animal welfare community, the City of Irving neither controls them nor is responsible for the content on their websites.