Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented but not cured. The virus attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals, including people. Though a small number of people have survived rabies, the disease is usually fatal. When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or the animal's nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.
For that reason, if you have been bitten to or exposed to an animal that is known or suspected to have rabies you should receive a series of shots to prevent the rabies virus from infecting you.
All animal bites within Martin County should be reported to the Rabies Prevention Program for investigation and follow-up.
To report animal bites call DOH-Martin at 772-221-4030 or contact the Animal Services Unit of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office at 772-463-3211.
Florida has no nuisance wildlife removal program. If you want to have an animal removed from your property you must do so at your own expense. State rules regarding relocating animals and a list of registered wildlife trappers are available at myfwc.com.
If you have questions about an animal’s behavior, you can contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 561-625-5122 and speak with a wildlife biologist.
If you have found injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife, please call the Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital at 772-286-6200.
For more information about Rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health website at: www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html.
For tips how to prevent dog bites please go to: www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/prevention/dog-bite-prevention/index.html.
What do rabid animals look like?
Animals with rabies may show strange behavior - they can be aggressive, attacking for no apparent reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). They may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. They may drool because they have difficulty swallowing. They may stagger or become paralyzed. Rabies will kill most animals.
What do I do if an animal bites me?
Immediately scrub the wound with lots of soap and running water for five to ten minutes.
- Try to get a complete description of the animal and determine where it is so that it can be picked up by animal control staff for quarantine or rabies testing.
- Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room
- Call your county animal control agency with the animal's description and location. The animal will either be quarantined for ten days (if it is a dog, cat or ferret) or be tested for rabies.
- If you kill the animal, be careful not to damage the head to allow for rabies testing and avoid further contact with the animal even when it is dead.
Protect yourself, your family, and your pets from rabies
Have your veterinarian vaccinate all of your dogs, cats, ferrets and horses against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian's instructions for re-vaccination.
- Avoid contact with wild or stray animals
- Never feed wild or stray animals - avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources (like uncovered trash) Feed your pets indoors.
- Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.
- If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. Wash your pet with soap and water to remove saliva from the attacking animal. Do not let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be dealt with by animal control or county health department staff.