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Rabies is a disease caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected mammals. It is spread to other animals and people by bites, possibly by getting into an open cut or scratch with saliva. Because there is no cure, treatment is very important for a person who is or may be ill.

In Wisconsin, skunks and bats are the most common animals to carry rabies. However, it has occurred in dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons, and livestock.

The Health Department works with local veterinarians, law enforcement, health care providers, the State Lab of Hygiene, the victim of an animal bite, and animal owner, to complete follow-up on all reported animal bites. This includes observing and testing the biting animal and possible treatment of the victim. In most cases, observation or testing of the biting animal will rule out the possibility of rabies.

Prevent Dog Bites

Educate yourself and your children on how to approach a dog.  People should avoid petting a dog, if the dog:

  • Owner is not present.
  • Owner tells you not to pet the dog.
  • Is growling or barking.
  • Is behind a fence.
  • Is sleeping or eating.
  • Is sick or injured.
  • Is resting with her puppies or appears protective of her puppies and shows signs of stress with your presence.
  • Is playing with a toy.
  • Appears to be hiding or wants to be alone.


If You Are Bitten By An Animal

ALL dog, cat, or ferret bites must be reported to law enforcement at 715-479-4441 so a proper report can be completed and follow-up can be initiated. The Vilas County Humane Officer is responsible for laws related to rabies control and enforcing other animal related laws. For any other complaints about dogs, contact an Animal Control Officer.

A list of steps you should take is listed below:

  • Wash the wound immediately with soap and running water for at least five minutes.
  • See a medical provider immediately, even for minor wounds.
  • If a dog, cat, or ferret bites, immediately confine the pet and contact your veterinarian or local law enforcement.
  • If the bite is from a wild or stray animal, DO NOT try to capture the animal unless you are sure you can do so without getting injured.
  • DO NOT kill the animal that has bitten a human or other animal. Contact local law enforcement or the Health Department.
  • If the animal that bit dies, refrigerate the animal. Avoid freezing.
  • If the animal that is thought to have rabies cannot be observed or tested, or if it tests positive for rabies, the person gets treated immediately with rabies immune globulin and the vaccine series (vaccine injections are given in the arm).
  • For more information contact, law enforcement, your medical provider, or the Health Department at 715-479-3656.

More Information On Rabies:


Wisconsin Statute 95.21 "Rabies Control Program"

Wisconsin Statute 95.21 "Rabies Control Program" requires that a dog or cat which has bitten a person must be delivered to a veterinarian within 24 hours after being contacted by the law enforcement agency or health department for examination and quarantine of not less than 10 days at the expense of the owner. If the animal is currently immunized against rabies as evidenced by a valid vaccination certificate, the animal may be quarantined on the premises of the owner, following initial examination by a veterinarian.

If no valid evidence of vaccination can be displayed, the dog or cat will be impounded by the veterinarian or at an isolation facility for at least 10 days at the owner's expense.

On or after the 10th day, a final examination will be conducted by a veterinarian who will complete the veterinarian's certificate. The signed certificate must be returned to law enforcement.