Animal Bites

If You Are Bitten

If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately. A health care provider will care for the wound and will assess the risk for rabies exposure. The following information will help your health care provider assess your risk:

  • The geographic location of the incident
  • The type of animal that was involved
  • How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
  • The vaccination status of the animal
  • Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies (if necessary)
Steps taken by the health care practitioner will depend on the circumstances of the bite. Your health care practitioner should consult state or local health departments, veterinarians, or animal control officers to make an informed assessment of the incident and to request assistance. The important factor is that you seek care promptly after you are bitten by any animal.

If Your Pet is Bitten

When a domestic pet comes in contact with an animal suspected of rabies three different scenarios are possible:

If the domestic pet is currently vaccinated against rabies and there is no human contact then a booster shot within 5 days is recommended for the pet and no testing of the suspected animal is needed.

If the animal is currently vaccinated against rabies but there is potential contact with a human being (for example a person breaks up a fight between their dog and a raccoon and gets saliva in their eye) then the suspected rabid animal must be submitted for testing. If the test is positive for rabies then the pet will need a booster shot and the owner will have to be treated for exposure to rabies. If the test is negative for rabies then no further action is required.

If the animal is not vaccinated against rabies then the animal will have to be confined in a kennel at the owner’s residence for a period of 6 months. The construction of the kennel must meet specific requirements and certain rules must be followed. If the owner of the pet does not wish to confine their animal, then the animal must be euthanized.

Please follow your doctor’s and/or veterinarian’s advice regarding the treatment of any cuts, scrapes, or wounds that you or your pet may have received in an incident.

Testing For Rabies

Rabies tests are conducted when:

  • The animal being observed for rabies dies during the 10 day confinement period
  • An animal such as a raccoon is suspected of having rabies and comes in contact with a human or domestic animal (confinement and observation is not possible)
Rabies tests are conducted postmortem on all specimens submitted and are used to determine if post-exposure treatment is necessary. Testing is done using the brain tissue of the animal in question. If there is severe trauma to the brain of a suspected rabid animal testing may no longer be possible. All specimens collected by the Niagara County Department of Health are sent to the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center Rabies Laboratory in Albany.

Wadsworth Center - New York State Department of Health