Animal Bites

Animal Bites & Rabies


Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The rabies virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans (typically through a bite) and is fatal once symptoms appear. Human rabies is now rare in the United States, but still occurs in many developing nations.  


Animal Bite Management


One of the most effective ways to prevent rabies infection is immediate, thorough cleansing of the animal bite or scratch wounds with liberal amounts of soap and water for 10-15 minutes.


It is important for bite victims to notify their local health department (or local law enforcement when public health staff are unavailable) whenever a bite occurs to ensure that the biting animal is appropriately and legally observed or tested for rabies. It is also vital not to release or destroy a biting animal until a public health official or an animal control officer is consulted. The victim's physician should also be notified promptly.


To report a bite, contact the Iowa County Health Department at 608.930.9870 or the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office at 608.935.314 and provide as much detail as possible about the incident (what, when, where, and how the incident happened). It’s also important to get the owner’s name, phone number, and information about the animal, when possible.


If the incident was from a wild animal, try to contain the animal while taking precautions to prevent any additional bites or exposure to saliva. If you need to kill the animal, be extremely careful to not damage the head. The animal head will be sent to the State Lab for rabies testing. If the rabies test is positive or indeterminate (unknown), you need to be vaccinated as soon as possible. If the test is negative for rabies, you were not exposed to rabies at the time of the incident. If the animal is not available for testing, the decision to start the rabies vaccination will be made by you and your medical provider.


If you were bitten by a pet animal, obtain information from the owner about the pet: including the owner’s name, home number, and description of the animal and vaccination status for rabies. A pet that has bitten a person needs to be watched by a veterinarian for 10 days. If the animal shows no sign of rabies after 10 days, the animal did not have rabies. You were not exposed. If the animal shows signs of rabies, additional testing on the animal will occur and you may need rabies shots.


Prevention Measures


Exposure to rabies may be minimized by the following measures:


  • Eliminate stray dogs and cats and enforce leash laws.
  • Vaccinate pet dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock against rabies.
  • Stay away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally.
  • Teach your children not to approach any unfamiliar animals.
  • Do not keep exotic or wild animals as pets, regardless of how young or cute they are.
  • Exclude bats from living quarters by keeping screens in good repair and by closing any small openings that could allow them to enter.
  • Persons traveling to developing countries in which rabies is highly prevalent, or persons who are at ongoing risk of possible rabies exposure (e.g., veterinarians, animal control officers), should ask their doctor about receiving the PRE-exposure rabies vaccinations.


Report Sick or Dead Wildlife

If you find a dead animal, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website for instructions. The DNR has disease monitoring programs for specific wildlife species. If you are told to dispose of a dead animal, do not touch it with your bare hands. Wear gloves or an inverted plastic bag and either bury the carcass on your property or double bag it and place it in your trash. Wash your hands after disposing of the carcass.

For more information:




General Information
Phone Numbers
(608) 930-9870
Emergencies: Dial 911
303 W. Chapel St.
Suite 2200

Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:30pm