A domestic cat, which bit and scratched a woman in Allentown on July 16, has tested positive for rabies. Rabies is a contagious disease that can be fatal, and both humans and all warm-blooded pets, including both cats and dogs, are susceptible. In light of these events, we thought we would provide some general information about preventing and responding todog bites or other domestic animal attacks.
General Information About Rabies and Animal Bites
The victim of the rabid cat attack reported that the cat was unusually aggressive, which is a common symptom of rabies. Whether the animal has rabies or is healthy, however, dog bites and domestic animal attacks are most likely to cause injuries to children, but the unusual aggression exhibited by rabid animals makes them nearly as likely to attack adults.
85 percent of rabies cases are caused by attacks by wildlife, such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. When domestic cats and dogs get rabies, it is generally because they were bitten by wild animals that had the rabies virus.
Rabies vaccination is mandatory for pets in Florida, starting at age four months. Failure to have your pet vaccinated for rabies can result in a fine of up to $500, plus your pet can be impounded by animal control. You would then be required to pay for the costs of the impound and obtain the rabies vaccination within 72 hours.
Because of the active threat identified by the rabid cat that was found, Santa Rosa County Animal Services is currently impounding all unvaccinated pets and quarantining them for 10 days.
Anyone Bitten by an Animal Should Get Immediate Medical Care
In case of a dog bite or attack by another animal:
- Immediately wash any wounds with soap and water.
- Get immediate medical attention and report the incident to the Santa Rosa County Health Department at 850-983-5200 (business hours) or 850-418-5566 (after hours).
- Rabies treatment is easiest if the animal can be tested. Report any animal that attacks you or displays unusually aggressive behavior, along with its location, to Santa Rosa County Animal Services at 850-983-4680. They are open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and can be reached at night or on holidays at 850-983-5372.
Safety Tips to Keep You, Your Family and Your Pets Safe
- Do not approach wild animals, and never feed them from your hand
- Never allow your children to play with, touch or feed strays
- Report strays to Animal Services
- Don’t keep wild animals as pets
- Keep your pets’ rabies vaccinations current
- Don’t leave pets outside unsupervised
- Keep your pets on your own property — including cats
- Feed your pets indoors; outdoor feeding attracts wild animals and strays
- Consider taking down your bird feeders so they don’t attract unwanted animals
- Keep your trash cans tightly fastened
- “Rabies in Santa Rosa” (Pensacola News Journal, July 21, 2010)
- “Santa Rosa officials on alert after rebid [sic] cat found” (Pensacola News Journal, July 22, 2010)