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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.

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Animal Risk Assessment

Environmental Health

Any mammal that is wild, domestic, caged, or feral that shows signs of rabies typical to that species should be considered possibly rabid.

Most free-ranging wild animals instinctively avoid humans unless otherwise conditioned by artificial feeding. Those animals that approach people or their pets and attack should be considered possibly rabid.

All high-risk wildlife species should be considered highly suspect regardless of their health or behavior status, as these animals have been shown to sometimes have the virus in their saliva for a week or more before becoming ill and may lack reliable signs of the disease, and/or because of their status as a known rabies reservoir regularly confirmed through rabies testing.

High-Risk Animals: Unvaccinated outdoor cats and wildlife: raccoons, bats, skunks, coyotes, foxes, otters, bobcats; unvaccinated ferrets

Moderate-Risk Animals: Stray dogs and unvaccinated dogs

Low-Risk Animals: Vaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets; wild rodents and pocket pets including rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, domestic rabbits; armadillos, opossums, and caged monkeys (Herpes B virus should be considered for all macaque monkey exposures.)

Key Risk Assessment Questions:

• Did the bite break the skin (bat bites may not be clearly visible)?

• When did the exposure occur?

• What is the animal species (low or high risk)?

• What is the animal’s rabies exposure risk (housed inside vs. left unattended outside)?

• If an owned pet, how long have the current owners owned?

• What is the animal’s vaccination status (no history of vaccination, overdue for vaccination, up to date; one previous vaccination, history of 2 or more vaccinations)?

• Was the bite provoked?

• Does the animal currently appear healthy with normal behavior?

• Did the bite involve the victim’s head or neck?

• If a domestic animal or livestock, is it available for observation?

• If a wild animal or exotic pet, is it available for testing (Cases involving valuable or rare
wildlife/exotic pets may be handled differently.)?

Click here to report an animal bite