Williamson County and Cities Health District
Rabies InformationAnimal Bite Reporting
Animal bites to people must be reported as soon as possible to the Local Rabies Control Authority (LRCA) in your community. In our community the Local Rabies Control Authority is typically an Animal Control Officer associated with the local law enforcement agency. The LRCA will investigate the incident and quarantine the animal for observation or testing, in accordance with Texas and local rabies prevention laws. Texas Rabies Laws
Local Rabies Control Authorities and Animal Control Officers are trained to deal with animal bites and potential rabies exposure incidents. They know how to properly quarantine or test a biting animal to determine if a bite victim was exposed to rabies.
Rabies in Animals
Animal species varies in their likelihood for having and transmitting rabies. Some animals are “low- risk” for rabies. These include opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats, and armadillos.
Some animal species in Texas are considered high risk for rabies transmission. These include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. When an exposure to a “high- risk” animal occurs, the animal must be submitted for rabies testing. By testing the animal’s brain tissue, the risk of rabies can be ruled in or out. Since brain tissue is needed for the rabies test, rabies suspect animals should not be killed by trauma or gun shot to its head.
Domestic dogs and cats pose more of a rabies risk than the “low-risk” species. Even when vaccinated against rabies, dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be quarantined for 10 days (240 hours) to prove they did not transmit rabies to the human bite victim. Home quarantine may be an option in your community, but only if certain criteria are met. It is better to have the animal observed in a secure quarantine pen or tested for rabies than to start the rabies postexposure vaccination series right away because the odds are that a domestic animal will not have rabies. Rabies is uncommon in domestic animals, so bites from dogs and cats do not warrant immediate postexposure vaccinations.
Reporting Abnormal Animal Behavior
Animal control officers should be notified when animals or wildlife appear to be exhibiting signs of rabies. Abnormal behavior or abnormal movement that might indicate rabies includes: staggering, falling, and circling.
Medical Treatment of Animal Bite Wounds
Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water as a first aid procedure. For all animal bites, contact your physician to determine the need for a tetanus shot, receive proper wound care, and to discuss the risk of rabies exposure. The LRCA will determine need for quarantine or testing options for the biting animal.
For a rabies risk consultation, please contact:
- Williamson County and Cities Health District,
Communicable Disease Management Team
- DSHS Health Service Region 7 Temple
- Download the Bats & Rabies Public Health Guide
- Download the Bats in Schools Poster
- When Should I Seek Medical Attention?