Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Part 1 of this 2-part series covered the reasons we have rabies laws. This article briefly summarizes North Carolina rabies regulations and describes what to do if you find a bat in the house, your pet is bitten, or your pet has had contact with a wild animal.
This article includes changes to NC rabies regulations that go into effect on October 1, 2017, and recommendations from Jose Pena, epidemiology specialist with Mecklenburg County Public Health (via telephone interview).
North Carolina rabies regulations
1. Dogs, cats, and ferrets over 4 months of age must be vaccinated against rabies. The earliest the vaccine can be given is 3 months (12 weeks) of age.
2. Dogs and cats receive a rabies booster vaccine 1 year after the first vaccine and every 3 years thereafter, if the vaccine is licensed for 3-year use. (Mallard Creek Animal Hospital uses a nonadjuvanted vaccine with a 1-year license for most cats.)
3. Dogs and cats are considered immunized 28 days after the first rabies vaccine.
4. If a pet bites a person, the bite must be reported to Animal Control and the pet must be quarantined for 10 days. Animal Control decides the quarantine location. Animals with a current rabies vaccination and no bite history may be quarantined at the owner's home. Animals with an expired or no rabies vaccination or (in some cases) a history of biting or scratching are quarantined at a shelter or veterinary facility.
5. All potential exposures should be reported to Animal Control. The local health director determines whether rabies exposure is likely.
Exposure to rabies doesn’t necessarily mean a bite wound. Any type of contact with a wild animal, especially rabies vector species like bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes, can constitute exposure. Unvaccinated cats and dogs can also carry rabies. The presence of a bat in the house is usually considered exposure because bat bites are hard to see and it’s often impossible to know how long the bat has been indoors.
6. If a dog, cat, or ferret is exposed to rabies:
What you should do
1. Keep your pets’ vaccinations current. This includes indoor-only cats!
2. If your pet bites someone, don’t avoid the consequences; just accept the 10-day quarantine.
3. If a bat is in your house:
4. If your pet is bitten by an unknown animal, a wild animal, or a dog or cat with unknown vaccination status:
5. If you you notice a wild animal acting strangely or you have found a dead wild animal:
6. To avoid attracting wild animals, feed your pets indoors and don’t leave food outside.
For more information
Rabies control and prevention in North Carolina: NC Health and Human Services website
Protect yourself from rabies: Mecklenburg Government website
September 28, 2017
Photo by Inge Wallumrød