Animal Bites

Animal bites put people at risk of rabies. Keep bites at bay by using care and caution around animals, including your own pet.  

Advice for Parents/Caregivers
  • Never leave a child alone with an animal (including your own pet)
  • Teach children how to safely act around pets or other animals:
    • Ask a pet owner first if it’s OK to touch or approach an animal. Ensure the owner is in control of the animal and aware while the child is approaching the animal.s
    • Do not disturb animals that are sleeping, eating, caring for their young, or showing signs of illness
    • Get children to keep away from wild or stray animals, If a wild animal growls or is aggressive, back away slowly. Never turn around and run. Avoid direct eye contact. Wild animals (like foxes and raccoons) that are friendly may be sick, so stay away!
Advice for Small Children
Advice for Pet Owners
  • Be responsible, especially if children are near your pet
  • Keep pets on leashes and under control when out in public spaces/trails
  • Vaccinate your pet against rabies. It’s the law!

What to Do if Bitten by an Animal

  • Get the pet owner’s contact information. If possible, take a picture of the animal or remember specific features (like markings, collar with tags). This helps with the follow-up investigation to ensure the correct animal is identified.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water
  • Get medical care right away. Rabies is fatal if left untreated
  • Report the bite or scratch to the Health Unit so that further investigation can be done.

For more information, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006, or email

Additional Resources

Bat Rabies

Like other mammals, bats may have rabies. There are eight species of bats in Ontario, each of which has its own strain of rabies. The most common species of bats are big brown bat, little brown bat and the silver-haired bat.Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and help reduce the insect population.

Bats cannot be vaccinated using baits, as has been done for foxes and raccoons, as they are insect-eaters and will not consume vaccine baits. International research is being conducted on vaccination methods for bats.

Rabid bats often lose their ability to fly, or do not fly well. If a bat is wandering around in the daylight, acting strangely or crawling around on the ground, it may be rabid. Stay away.

Preventing Bat Rabies:
  • warn children to stay away from all wild animals, including bats
  • bat-proof your home. If bats are found in your home, seek advice from an animal control or wildlife conservation authority
  • be sure your pet’s vaccination is up-to-date as bats can transmit rabies to domestic pets
  • never handle bats or keep bats as a pet
  • seek medical advice if you receive a bite or scratch from a bat. The bat should be considered rabid unless captured and proven otherwise
Direct Contact with a Bat

If you are bitten by a bat or if saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water, seek medical attention immediately, and notify the local health unit.

If you awaken and find a bat in your room and there is no evidence of bat-human contact, rabies vaccine or post-exposure prophylaxis is not recommended. Post-exposure prophylaxis can be considered for people who were in the same room as a bat and are unable to say whether direct contact occurred (e.g. a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally challenged person or intoxicated person) and rabies cannot be ruled out by testing the bat.

Direct bat contact may have occurred to people waking up crying or upset while the bat was in the room or there is an obvious bit or scratch mark. The bat in question should be safely collected by an adult, if possible, and submitted for testing.

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended for all people with bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to a bat unless the bat is available for testing and is negative for evidence of rabies. Vaccination should be discontinued if tests of the animal are negative for rabies infection.


Help Prevent the Spread!

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded mammals, including humans.

Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

In Canada, bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons are the most common transmitters of the disease.

Health Unit Role

The Health Unit plays a role in helping to prevent the spread of rabies. Public Health Inspectors from the HKPR District Health Unit:

  • monitor reports of rabies cases in the area to keep informed of potential rabies threats
  • when notified, investigate potential human exposures to rabies
  • confine and visually inspect a dog, cat or ferret that bit or scratched a person for a 10-day observation period, from the date of exposure
  • make recommendations and deliver post-rabies treatment to physicians when vaccination required
  • assist participating veterinarians in the promotion of the low-cost rabies vaccination clinics

To learn more, call the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.

« Go back