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Animal Exposure Investigation

Photo of dog barking/growling

What should I do if I have been bitten or scratched by an animal?

If you’re bitten or scratched by a domestic animal (your own, a stray or someone else’s), a wild animal or directly exposed to a bat (bite, scratch, or the bat has touched or landed on you):

  • Wash the wound with soap and warm water for at least 15 minutes (WHO, 2016)
  • Seek immediate medical attention
  • If you’ve been bitten or scratched by a bat or other wild animal, do not attempt to catch the animal or provoke it. Contact a professional if the animal needs to be captured.
  • Report the incident to us at 519-258-2146 ext. 1474. If the incident occurs outside of regular business hours, or on a holiday call us at 519- 973-4510.

If you’ve been bitten or scratched by a domestic animal, it is your responsibility and best interest to attempt to obtain as much information about the animal, such as owners’ name, address and phone number. This will assist the Public Health Inspector when investigating the animal exposure.

What should I do if my animal has bitten or scratched someone?

If your animal has bitten or scratched someone, it’s your responsibility to contact the Health Unit at 519-258-2146 ext. 1474 and report the incident. If the incident occurs outside of regular business hours, or on a holiday call us at 519- 973-4510.

What should I expect when I contact the Health Unit?

  • Once an animal exposure is reported a Public Health Inspector will investigate the incident.
  • When the animal is identified, it will be confined and placed under observation at the owner’s home or a recognized shelter for at least 10 days from the date of the incident.
  • Once the observation period has ended, a Public Health Inspector will visit again to make sure that the animal is alive and healthy, release it from confinement, and let the victim know that there was no risk of rabies virus transmission. 
  • When the animal is not available for confinement, rabies vaccine may be recommended to the victim.
  • If the animal has since deceased, it may be tested for the rabies virus.

How to reduce the risk of getting bit?

  • Do not attempt to pet or feed unfamiliar wild or domestic animals
  • Do not disturb animals when they are eating, sleeping or with their young
  • Do not attempt to break up an animal fight using your body
  • Keep your garbage properly sealed to avoid attracting wild animals
  • Teach your children about animal safety

What should I do if my animal was bitten or scratched by another animal?

The Windsor- Essex County Health Unit only investigates human exposures to animals.

If your animal was bitten or scratched by another animal, consult a veterinarian for immediate medical attention.  Find a Veterinarian in your area.

If the animal is potentially rabid, call the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at 1-877-424-1300 to report the incident.

Contact the Windsor- Essex County Humane Society at 519-966-5751 if animal control is required.

For information about rabies and how to keep your family and your pets safe, see our Rabies page.