Rabies & Animals

The Environmental Health Division works cooperatively with the Health Department’s Infectious Disease division, Caroline County Animal Control, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and local law enforcement to prevent rabies and minimize its effects on Caroline County residents.

Our office conducts investigations of animal bites, determines when animals must be tested, quarantined and/or euthanized, supports residents who have been exposed to rabies, and encourages rabies prevention by conducting low-cost vaccination clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets several times throughout the year.

Report Rabies Exposure to the Environmental Health Division 24/7:

(410) 479-8045 during business hours

(410) 829-5910 after hours and on weekends

For assistance with a stray domestic animal that may be exhibiting signs of rabies, contact:

Caroline County Animal Control: (410) 820-1600

Caroline County 911 Center, Non-Emergency Line: (410) 479-2222

For assistance with wildlife that may be exhibiting signs of rabies, contact:

USDA Wildlife Services: 1-877-463-6497

To locate a permitted vendor who can remove wildlife from your home or property, visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Nuisance Wildlife website.

Rabies Exposure

If you, a member of your family, or one of your pets has exposure to a bat (bitten, scratched, or had close contact), contact Environmental Health right away:

  • Call (410) 479-8045 during business hours
  • Call (410) 829-5910 after hours and on weekends

Rabies exposure is a matter of medical urgency, but not an emergency. Therefore, residents should contact the Health Department, rather than emergency services. 

Rabies is a serious, but preventable viral disease that attacks the nervous system. It is predominantly seen in raccoons, foxes, and bats, as well as dogs and cats (domestic animals). Caroline County residents are reminded that all wild or unknown animals must be avoided whenever possible since the possibility of exposure to rabies can occur anywhere and at any time.  

It is important to know that if you wake up to a bat in your room, this is considered a rabies exposure, even if you are not sure you have had contact with the bat. Bat bites are very small and cannot be easily seen or felt. Therefore, if you have been sleeping in the same room where a bat is found, you are considered to have been exposed to rabies. Contact Environmental Health immediately.   

An exposure can mean contamination of open wounds, abrasions, mucous membranes, or scratches by potentially contaminated with infectious material from a rabid animal or any penetration of the skin by teeth constitutes a bite exposure. All bites by a wild animal represent a potential risk of rabies transmission, but that risk varies with the species of biting animal, the anatomic site of the bite, and the severity of the wound. 

Rabies Prevention

Pets and Domestic Animals

Follow these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to protect your pets:

  1. Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all cats, dogs, and ferrets. The Health Department offers low-cost rabies clinics to help residents protect their pets in the spring and fall. Visit our Events Page for information on upcoming rabies clinics.
  2. Limit your pet’s exposure to rabies from wild animals by keeping cats and ferrets indoors, and by keeping your dogs under supervision when they are outside.
  3. Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  4. Contact animal control to remove stray animals from your neighborhood, since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill. You can call Caroline County Animal Control at (410) 820-1600.

The Health Department conducts low-cost rabies clinics in the fall and spring each year. Rabies clinics are shared on our events calendar, featured on our home page, and posted on our social media accounts. Please check back regularly for updates.

People

The CDC recommends the following actions to prevent rabies exposure in people.

  1. Assume all wildlife may be infected and leave it alone. 
  2. Know the risk: contact with infected bats is the leading cause of rabies deaths in the United States, followed by exposure to rabid dogs.
  3. Wash animal bites or scratches immediately with soap and water.
  4. If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure, contact us immediately to discuss whether you need postexposure prophylaxis treatment. Rabies in people is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care.
  5. Vaccinate your pets to protect them and your family.
Signs of Rabies

You can’t tell if an animal has rabies by just looking at it—the only way to know for sure if an animal (or a person) has rabies is to perform laboratory testing. However, animals with rabies may act strangely. 

The following may be signs of rabies in animals:

  • General sickness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Excessive drool or saliva (sometimes called “foaming at the mouth”)
  • Overly aggressive behavior
  • Biting at imaginary objects (sometimes called “fly biting”)
  • Acting tamer than you would expect
  • Difficulty moving or may even be paralyzed (sometimes described as staggering)
  • A bat that is on the ground

For the health and safety of wildlife, your pets, and yourself, leave wild animals alone, including baby animals. The best thing to do is to never feed or approach a wild animal. Be careful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don’t pet it. If any animal is acting strangely, call animal control for help. 

Caroline County Animal Control: (410) 820-1600

Caroline County 911 Center, Non-Emergency Line: (410) 479-2222

Resources:

Animal Exhibits

Animal exhibits at fairs, schools, farms and petting zoos are fun and educational. However, animals can carry germs that make people sick. Common germs from animal exhibits include E. coli, Cryptosporodium, and Salmonella. Even animals that well cared for and healthy can be carriers of harmful germs. Areas where they live or are being held can also be contaminated. You don’t necessarily need to touch an animal to get sick.

Children under the age of 5, adults over 65, and people of any age with a weakened immune system are more likely to get sick from germs carried by animals, but anyone can become infected.

The good news is that you can take simple steps to keep your family safe, while still enjoying your experience with animal exhibits.

  • Wash your hands right away after touching an animal or anything in the area where they live or are being kept. Soap and water are best, but if they are not available, you can use a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60%. You should still wash your hands thoroughly at the first opportunity.
  • Don’t eat or drink around the animals and don’t take your food or snacks into areas where the animals are kept.
  • Keep personal items out of the animal area – don’t take in strollers, toys, pacifiers, cups, water bottles, etc. 

Regardless of the precautions taken, children under age 5 should never touch reptiles, amphibians, or poultry (such as chickens or ducks) because these animals are more likely to make them sick. 

If you work at, manage, or design animal exhibits, the CDC provides a variety of helpful information to help prevent the spread of diseases associated with having animals in public settings