Animal Bites

What is considered an animal bite?

A “bite” is considered any break in the skin caused by the tooth of an animal. This includes abrasions, scratches, punctures, cuts, etc.

If you are bitten by a cat or dog, you should:

  1. Exchange information with the owner and ask if their dog is vaccinated against rabies.
  2. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
  3. Seek medical attention if needed and be sure your tetanus shot is up to date.
  4. Report the bite incident to your local law enforcement agency and Monroe County Humane Officer/Animal Shelter with details of the incident.
  5. If there are concerns about a potential rabies exposure or vicious animal, the Health Department may follow-up with you.
  6. Contact the Health Department if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Bat bites and scratches are often small and go unnoticed. Because of this, some non-bite bat exposures can count as a potential exposure to rabies and call for submission
of the bat for rabies testing:

  • The bat has direct contact with a human or domestic animal, unless the possibility of a
    bite, scratch, or mucosal exposure is able to be ruled out explicitly.
  • The bat was in the same room as person who was sleeping, or with a previously
    unattended child, intoxicated person, or person with a mental disability.

If you attempt to capture the biting animal yourself, do not crush its skull! The state lab
requires that the brain material remain intact for a conclusive rabies test. To learn more about
the WSLH rabies testing procedure, visit The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene website.

Once the bat is captured, contact the health department and we will send the bat for rabies testing. 

If you are bitten by a wild animal:

  1. Wash the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention if needed.
  2. If possible, locate and capture the animal. Use caution. It is helpful to test the animal for rabies. Call the health department at 608-269-8666 and we will send the animal in for testing. Please note that the skull of the animal must be intact to test the animal for rabies.
  3. If the animal is unable to be captured, consult with your physician about Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), particularly if the animal had rabies symptoms.
  4. You may consult the DHS Rabies Algorithm as a guide for recommended next steps.
    To learn more about Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), visit