Keeping a pet comes with its own set of responsibilities. In addition to regular trips to the veterinarian, proper diet and regular grooming sessions, pet parents also have to be on the lookout for and ensure that their pets do not end up biting someone. If your cat or dog does, unfortunately, bite someone, it is a call for action on your part. The main concern that arises from a bite by a dog, cat or ferret is owing to the fear of rabies. A viral disease, rabies is caused by lyssaviruses, such as, Australian bat virus and the rabies virus.
The threat of rabies is real when an animal, infected with the virus, either bites or scratches another animal or a human. Rabies causes severe inflammation in the brain in mammals such as humans. Initial symptoms include fever as well a reported tingling at the bitten or scratched site. Other symptoms follow soon after – uncontrolled excitement, violent movements, confusion, an inability in moving different parts of the body, a marked fear of water, and loss of consciousness. When these symptoms make an appearance, death follows.Time period – between contracting the disease and developing the symptoms – ranges from 1 to 3 months on an average. Nevertheless, the time can vary greatly, and can be as little as a week or even a year. The time taken depends on the distance covered by the rabies virus to reach the central nervous system.
As such, when a dog, cat or ferret bites, there are no tests that can be done for suspected rabies.
Diagnosis for rabies can only be done when the symptoms set in. As symptoms can take anywhere from one to three months, on an average, to set in, the procedure usually followed in cases of suspected rabies is to watch the ‘biter’. A 10-day quarantine is advocated in such cases.
Why is the 10 – Day Quarantine Necessary?
Rabies is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal that has the virus in its saliva. Rabies can also be transmitted, though in rare cases, by the contamination of the mucous membrane – mouth, eyes or nostril – or open wounds and cuts coming into contact with the saliva of an animal with rabies. When a seemingly healthy cat or dog bites another animal or person, there is a fleeting chance that the cat or dog might be in the infectious phase of rabies, though not showing any outward signs of the disease.
The 10-day quarantine is followed in order to watch the cat or dog for any signs of rabies, that might develop in the following days. If, the animal does develop unmistakable signs of rabies, the person or another animal that had been bit could be treated accordingly. The cat or dog in the 10-day quarantine should be closely monitored and confined throughout the duration of the quarantine, so that it does not run off or even injure himself. On the passage of the 10-day period, if the dog or cat remains healthy, it can safely be assumed that the animal did not have the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of biting. If, on the other hand, the animal dies before the assigned 10 days, it can be assumed that he had rabies; and the bitten animal or person can be treated accordingly. The10-day quarantine period is a tried and tested way for dealing with a suspected rabies case. As the ‘biter’ cannot be checked for rabies while living – the brain matter can be checked for the virus only when the animal is dead – there is no other way, except quarantine, for determining whether or not the animal has rabies.
Penalty for Failing to Comply with Quarantine Requirements
In America, most states have strict laws in force making rabies vaccination compulsory for cats and dogs. There are also laws specifically requiring quarantining of cats and dogs that have bitten another animal or a person. In addition, certain states have compulsory rabies quarantine procedures for unvaccinated pets that might have been bitten by a wild animal or have a suspected bite wound with unclear origins.
Law, such as Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 95 – Animal Health, Section 21(10), provides for the penalty for failure to comply with quarantine requirements and lays down that a fine not less than $100 and no more than $1000 shall be charged, or a maximum imprisonment for 60 days, or both.
Quarantine Requirements for Dogs and Cats that have Bitten a Person
Usually, in order to watch the animal for signs of rabies, a 10-day quarantine is followed when a dog or cat bites a person.In certain cases, however, state laws might advocate a six-month quarantine period for an unvaccinated pet that might have been bitten by a wild animal or even has bite wounds of unclear origin. Often, as per state law, such a six-month quarantine is conducted in animal control facilities that have been approved by the state. All expenses in such cases are borne by the pet parent involved. In the event that the pet parent is unwilling to comply or is unable to afford the costs of the facility, the animal is euthanized and its brain matter checked for rabies.
Unvaccinated Dogs and Cats
In America, there are statutes that address the situation where an unvaccinated cat or dog ends up biting a person, either intentionally or inadvertently. Certain guidelines issued by the state authorities for such an occurrence include:
- In the event that an unvaccinated cat or dog somehow bites a person, a certified officer shall get that animal quarantined for a 10-day period from the date of the incident.
- Such an authorized officer can be – a law enforcement officer, a public health official, a humane officer or a DNR warden.
- Within about 24 hours from the issuance of the quarantine order, the unvaccinated cat or dog has to be delivered to the assigned isolation facility – which can be either a humane society, pound, shelter or even a veterinary clinic – to be kept under observation for a period of 10 days.
- During this period of quarantine, the cat or dog will be under strict isolation and examined at routine intervals. This examination will be on the first day that the animal is brought to the facility, the last day that the animal is kept there, as well as any one day in between.
- The animal kept in quarantine is released once the veterinarian certifies that the animal has exhibited no sign of rabies in the entire 10-day period.
- Though rarely done, the quarantine can be extended beyond the requisite 10 days, if the veterinarian is of the opinion that further observation is required.
- Once the quarantine period is over, rabies vaccination can be given to the animal.
- Rabies vaccination is not given when the animal is in quarantine. It is only given after the 10-day period is over.
- If, in the unfortunate event that the animal does show signs of rabies when in quarantine, the statute lays down that the animal be euthanized in a humane way and the brain matter be sent for rabies testing.
- All expenses are to be borne by the pet parent of the animal in quarantine.
While these are the general guidelines followed across all states in America, certain states might have their own set of rules when it comes to quarantining an unvaccinated cat or dog.
Vaccinated Dogs and Cats
The guidelines somewhat differfor vaccinated dogs and cats. These include:
- Pet parents of all vaccinated dogs and cats are expected to have a valid rabies certificate.
- If a certified vaccinate cat or dog bites any person, an officer shall order the animal to be quarantined for a 10-days period from the date of the incident.
- Such as officer can be – a law enforcement officer, a humane officer, public health official or a DNR warden.
- As against the practice of confining unvaccinated animals in an isolation facility, vaccinated cats and dogs can be quarantined at home.
- Quarantining at home is allowed only if the animal is kept at all times in an escape-proof enclosure. If the said dog is to be taken outside for a walk, it should only be while on a leash and supervised by a responsible adult.
- If the state suspects or finds evidence that the quarantine rules are not being adhered to at home, the animal can be shifted to an isolation facility instead.
- Regardless of whether kept at home or in an isolation facility, the animal is to be checked by a certified veterinarian at three times – on the first and last day of the period of quarantine, as well as any other day in the quarantine.
- If the animal is quarantined at home, it is imperative that any change in behavior or illness be brought to the notice of the veterinarian without fail and at once.
- The quarantined cat or dog is released after the 10-days period, if no sign of rabies is discovered while the animal was in quarantine.
- The period of quarantine can be extended beyond the requisite 10 days, if the veterinarian feels further observation is required. Though, this rarely happens.
- Rabies vaccinations, not to be given while in quarantine, are administered when the 10 days are over.
- If, unfortunately, the animal does show signs of rabies while kept under observation, the statute requires that the animal be euthanized humanely and the brain be submitted so that it could tested for rabies.
- All expenses are to be borne by the pet parent of the cat or dog that was quarantined.
The above-mentioned are the guidelines for the procedure to be followed in the event of vaccinated cats or dogs biting someone.
If you are a pet parent of a cat or dog, it is always advisable to have them vaccinated against rabies. Also, ensure that all vaccinations are up-to-date as well. Always, be informed. Get a copy of your state’s laws on rabies. A copy can easily be obtained from the health department or local animal control agencies. At all times, keep your pet’s rabies vaccination certificate where it can be easily accessed. If your cat or dog bites another animal or person, talk with your veterinarian at once. A majority of states in America require that such bites be reported to the health department without fail. If, on the other hand, your cat or dog is on the receiving end and bitten by an animal, consult your veterinarian at once. If you are aware of the owner of the animal that has bitten your pet, ask to see the rabies vaccination certificate. If the certificate is not up-to-date, notify the animal control authorities in your area so that the animal could be quarantined as soon as possible. When it comes to your prized pet, take no chances. Make it a priority to keep the rabies vaccinations up-to-date, so as to save you from any hassles in the event that your dog or cat is either bitten or bites another.