One of the most important aspects of an animal officer’s job is rabies control. Officers must have a thorough knowledge of the virus, response and control measures and NC rabies control laws. Rabies is a fatal disease once symptoms appear, there is no known cure. This section will introduce you to the important aspects of rabies, control measures and laws in North Carolina and resources for further study and assistance.
Rabies is one of the most virulent diseases of man and animals and has been documented in human history as far back as 2300 BC. Rabies is found on all continents and takes the lives of over 59,000 people every year. Global efforts include education, mass vaccination and prevention. In 2007, rabies scientists frustrated with the lack of collaboration and progress in rabies control created the Global Alliance for Rabies Control to eradicate rabies in humans by the year 2030 and established World Rabies Day, September 28.
The United States reported over 100 cases of human rabies deaths in the 1900’s and has decreased dramatically due to rabies control efforts. The numbers of human cases began dropping sharply in the 1940’s when dog vaccination began showing results. Today only 1-3 human cases are reported annually in the United States. Most cases diagnosed in the USA since 2008 originated from dogs and bats infecting humans out of country.
At the turn of the 20th century North Carolina documented 20 dogs and 1 cat as rabid and human infections averaged approximately 1 person per year. Numbers of rabid animal numbers increased peaking in 1935 with 900 rabid dogs and 80 cats and human infections continued. In 1935 North Carolina enacted rabies control law mandating the vaccination of dogs. As cat infections continued to increase, mandated vaccination of cats in 1986. Due to the nature of the cat and a typical practice of many cat owners who allow their pets to roam coupled with the practice of feeding stray cats, all of whom have a high risk of exposure to rabid wildlife, reducing rabies infections in cats is challenging. Continued enforcement of rabies control laws shows a positive outcome. North Carolina reported only 2 dogs and 10 cats as rabid in 2016 and the last human infection in 2011, a result of an organ transplant.
Numbers of rabid cats remain high.
Rabies is a Lyssa (fury, rage) virus that causes an acute encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord) and death.
All mammals are susceptible to this virus while certain species are infected often more than others. Rabies is a zoonotic disease meaning a disease that is transmitted from animals to man. Other examples of zoonoses are salmonella, Hepatitis E and Lyme disease. Most zoonotic infections will be treatable; rabies has no known cure. Animal officers are typically vaccinated against rabies.
Rabies is transmitted via the saliva of infected animals to a new host, generally through a bite. The rabies virus can also be transmitted through saliva in contact with a break in the skin. Cases of infection have resulted from organ transplants and drinking unpasteurized milk from a rabid cow. Rabies is not transmitted via blood, urine or feces.
Once infection occurs, animal rabies progresses through three main phases. Human rabies phases differ but all pass through these phases as the disease develops.
Each phase varies in time length dependant on location of infection, existing health, rabies variant involved and other factors.
Prodromal phase: Incubation, replication of virus in the body.
The virus is introduced by a rabid animal into the body (host) and without protective antibodies (vaccination) the virus replicates (grows). This phase can last from 1 to 2 months, but can vary from a few days to a few years. Fever Lethargy Muscle soreness Behavioral changes Herbivores (plant eaters) may remain longer in this phase than carnivores (meat eaters).
Encephalitic phase or Furious phase: Brain stem dysfunction.
The virus travels the spinal cord to the brain. Confusion Excitation Eating inanimate objects Seizures Delirium Hydrophobia (fear of water) Vomiting Choking
Paralytic phase: Paralysis, coma, death.
In coordination Inability to stand, walk Unresponsiveness Death due to respiratory or cardiac arrest.
The French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur developed the first anti rabies vaccine in 1885 and saved the life of a 9 year old who had bitten by a rabid dog. Pasteur also invented the process to remove harmful microbes from wine, milk and beer. We all know this process as pasteurization.
The rabies virus resides in animal reservoirs. Animals with a high incidence of rabies that are land dwelling such as the dog, raccoon, skunk and fox and others are considered terrestrial reservoirs. The bat is a non terrestrial reservoir. The bat is the primary reservoir for rabies worldwide; however dogs are responsible for 99% of all human infections worldwide.
Animate beings, such as animals and people who transmit disease are termed vectors. Inanimate objects, such as mops and equipment which transmit disease are termed fomites.
In NC, the rabies reservoir is found in the raccoon and is the primary vector for rabies transmission. Secondary important rabies vectors in NC are the fox, skunk and bat.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) oversees the National Rabies Management Program. North Carolina participates in the Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) program. This program distributes oral rabies bait in effort to vaccinate wild animals and slow the spread of the virus.
RABIES CONTROL IN NORTH CAROLINA
Read Public Health – Authorities-Records, Communicable Disease – Reporting Pg 43 – 47
§130A-41. (b) 10 Powers and duties of local health director. The local health director has the responsibility for rabies control. The health director may appoint a designee for this purpose such as a Rabies Control officer. Local ordinance may designate the animal control office to act as rabies control. If neither have been addressed the County Dog Warden may take responsibility for rabies control. §67-31. Powers and duties of dog warden.(page 9) In any case, one would be very hard pressed to find a county without a rabies control program or officer.
Review your ordinances now; identify and read sections relating to rabies.
§130A-12. Confidentiality of records. Reports of exposure to a rabies suspect or an injury such as a bite are considered a patient record and much of the information is confidential. Public records and information redaction is discussed in the Public Records section of this course.
§130A-17. through §130A-20. provides several avenues of authority in the enforcement of health laws and rules. These authorities are generally not pursued to control animals or rabies but are available if a Health Director deems it necessary. §130A-19 has been used to protect people from roaming dangerous dogs in the past in North Carolina. Today, animal ordinances have evolved where the use of this authority is generally not necessary.
§130A-134. Reportable diseases and conditions. Rabies is a communicable disease. Rabies exposures you document must be reported to the Health Director. Communicable diseases are then reported by the Health Director to the Commission for Health Services.
§130A-135 through §130A-142 requires day cares, physicians, schools (hospitals have an option to report) to report and the Health Director is required to report communicable disease cases and laboratory results.
Read Rabies Control – Pg 47 – 52
§130A‑184. Definitions. Definitions (1) through (4) should be are self explanatory, however there is terminology requiring more detail beyond the legal term itself for a better understanding.
(4a) refers to a feral animal. A feral animal is a domesticated animal that has reverted to its’ natural instincts. A wild animal is an animal that is not domesticated. Care should be taken when identifying a feral animal, in particular, the cat. Many times, cats are quickly labeled as “feral” or “unsocialized” when their behavior may be a result of mishandling, fear or illnesses. Feral animals are the result of the lack of human contact and it may take generations for domestic animals to become truly feral.
Definitions (4b) ferret and Rabies Vaccine are self explanatory. Rabies vaccines purchased through domestic veterinary suppliers meet the licensing requirements.
(6) State Public Health Veterinarian at the time of this writing is Dr. Erica Berl at the NC Division of Public Health of the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
(6a) Stray is defined as out of confinement and has no identification.
You will recall from the Authorities section that ordinances may require a level of conduct more stringent than statutory law never less stringent. As a result, local ordinances may include other or all domestic species as strays.
New Hanover County Stray animal means any animal within the county wandering at large or lost and which does not have an owner, or does not bear evidence of the identification of any owner, or any dog or cat within the county whose owner, if determinable, has failed to pay for and procure county license/rabies vaccination tag.
Review your ordinances; identify and read sections relating to stray animals.
(7) Vaccination can only be performed by a NC licensed veterinarian, a NC registered Veterinary Technician or a NC Certified Rabies Vaccinator(CRV). Detail regarding CRV is found in §130A-186. Appointment and certification of certified rabies vaccinator.
§130A‑185. Vaccination required. Dogs, cats and ferrets are required to be vaccinated again rabies when they reach 4 months of age. These animals may be vaccinated at 3 months and shall be by 4 months.
The first rabies vaccination provides adequate levels of rabies antibodies for 1 year. The booster dose provides adequate levels of rabies antibodies for 3 years.
§130A-186. Appointment and certification of certified rabies vaccinator. (CRV) Many animal officers and shelter staff become certified to administer the rabies vaccine. Local health directors select individuals to administer rabies vaccines to dogs, cats and ferrets. The process requires the health director appointment, completion of an online training course, training by a licensed veterinarian and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). CRVs are authorized to administer 1 year vaccines only to dogs, cats and ferrets, administration of the 3 year vaccine or vaccines for other species is reserved for licensed veterinarians. This certification does not extend beyond the CRVs territorial jurisdiction.
Below you will find files and information required for CRV approval.
Rabies clinics are mass vaccination events. The Health Director has a responsibility to ensure at least one rabies clinic is provided every year. As many of the rabies control functions are delegated to the animal services agency, it would generally oversee the rabies clinic. Rabies clinics are generally held in various locations to provide equitable service to all citizens. They are typically staged on government owned property such as fire departments, parks and other areas where there is to room move animals and people safely and liability is minimal. Local veterinarians may be invited to participate in rabies clinics to administer a 3 year vaccine. In some jurisdictions, rabies clinics are held at veterinary offices and offer both the 1 and 3 year vaccination. Three year vaccines can only be administered to animals whose previous vaccination has not expired. Rabies clinics are labor intensive and can draw large crowds. Many people may arrive during a short time period and all are in close contact with unfamiliar people and dogs and cats. Organization of the clinic minimally requires at the least a vaccinator, clerical assistance for documenting rabies certificates, collecting fees, issuing tags and someone to keep order. It is a good opportunity to meet the citizenry, work alongside veterinary staff and at times, gather some valuable information. Local law enforcement will typically assist in these events when requested and if available.
§130A‑189. Rabies vaccination certificates. Owners of animals vaccinated against rabies must receive a copy of the rabies certificate, a copy is held by the vaccinator/veterinarian and a copy is to be held by animal control. While there are no specifics in law to what information should be recorded, they should contain:
The CDC provides a checklist to identify questionable rabies certificates.
§130A-190. Rabies vaccination tags. Along with the rabies certificate, owners shall be provided a rabies tag. The tag is valuable in identifying the vaccine lot, the animal vaccinated and owner identification. Tags may be lost and most veterinarians and vaccinators can provide a duplicate tag. Animal agencies and veterinarians can purchase rabies tags from the NCDHHS at low cost. Customized rabies tags may also be ordered by manufacturers but must be numbered and contain the following information:
North Carolina or NC
One year State issued tags are silver. Three year State issued tags are colored.
TIP: It is relatively easy for someone to obtain a rabies tag. A tag alone is not adequate to verify vaccination. Acquire the rabies certificate for verification.
The rabies tag number is recorded on the rabies certificate. Rabies certificates are manually recorded or computerized, dependant on resources. If records are kept manually, it is extremely important to record and file them in numeric orderby tagnumber. Do not neglect or become sloppy in recording numbers. When you are in possession of an animal with a tag or receive a call regarding an animal’s tag number you must be able to easily discover the rabies certificate containing the information regarding the animal, the vaccine and the owner. If the certificate file is not in numeric order you will lose time and appear disorganized and unprofessional.
TAG SEARCH LINK
§130A-191. Possession and distribution of rabies vaccine. In North Carolina rabies vaccine may only be possessed by:
Producers and distributors
Many states allow owners to purchase and administer rabies vaccines, other states will not recognize the vaccine if it was not administered by a veterinarian still others strictly prohibit the possession and administration of the vaccine as NC does. When presented with an out of state rabies tag or certificate, check that state’s laws regarding vaccine administration.
§130A‑192. Dogs and cats not wearing required rabies vaccination tags. Canvassing a jurisdiction for animals wearing the rabies tag is routine for animal officers. It is performed as a formal canvass and/or while responding to reports and complaints. If an animal has only an ID tag, a notice to the owner vaccinate and tag the animal within 3 days is issued. Animals without the rabies or identification tag may be impounded. Note the term, “may”. If an animal is on its’ owner’s property, seizure of that animal will require a seizure warrant. In most cases, a vaccination notice is issued and the officer follows up. If an animal is impounded under this authority, the animal must be kept for a minimum of 3 days. This law provides the basis for the “3 day rule”. Most offices count only those days or hours the facility is open to the public. Local ordinance may extend the minimum impound period but during such time an effort must be made to locate the animal’s owner. The use of microchip scanning is highly recommended and few agencies are without scanners. Use of the internet, social media, and help from private organizations and groups assists in searching for owners of pets impounded or held at animal shelters. Animals may be held past the minimum period and many shelters attempt to keep animals until they are adopted which could take weeks or months. After the minimum impound or holding period, animals are considered the agency’s property and may be:
returned to the owner; if one found
adopted as a pet by a new owner
Euthanasia methods are dictated in this statute by: Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), found in the NC Animal Welfare Act or, in the absence of such rules (which is currently not the case) by a procedure approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or of the American Humane Association (AHA). (a1) Before an animal may be euthanized it shallbe made available for adoption as required by the NC Animal Welfare Act. 19A-32.1. (pg 73) The NC Animal Welfare Act is discussed in the NC Animal Welfare Act section.
Records must be kept of the animals impounded under this section and are also required by the NC Animal Welfare Act. Minimal information required:
Length of stay
Method of release/disposal
Who received the animal
These records apply only to those animals impounded under the authority of this section. The NC Animal Welfare Act requires much more information. Animal shelters are replacing pounds and records required by the Animal Welfare Act should be observed.
Review your ordinances now; identify and read sections relating to animal impoundment and animal seizure.
§130A‑193. Vaccination and confinement of animals brought into this State. This statute is self explanatory. Many animal officers will not be aware of animals coming into their jurisdiction from out of NC. If an animal is discovered that requires your attention, this law provides the authority to control the risk of a rabies introduction by requiring the animal to be vaccinated against rabies and confined.
§130A‑194. Quarantine of districts infected with rabies. When numbers of rabid animals exceed expected numbers or if the number and type of exposures is determined to be a public health hazard, the local health director may order a quarantine area for a length of time. If a quarantine order is issued, this law initiates a “leash law” (animal is on a leash or under the control and in the sight of a responsible adult) and provides for animals to be confined at veterinary hospitals. Many local ordinances have adopted this language verbatim to describe animal nuisances.
§130A‑195. Destroying stray or feral animals in quarantine districts. When quarantine has been declared and stray or feral animals continue to run uncontrolled in the area, any peace officer or Animal Control Officer shall have the right, after reasonable effort has been made to apprehend the animals, to destroy the stray or feral animals and properly dispose of their bodies. In the spring of 2108 the Pamlico County Health Director declared a 60 day quarantine.
Owners of livestock vaccinate their animals in areas with high incidences of animal rabies. Vaccination of animals aside the dog, cat or ferret are reserved for veterinarians only.
§130A‑196. Notice and confinement of biting animals. As an animal officer you will use this statute extensively. When a dog, cat or ferret (required to be vaccinated) bites a person, it must be reported immediately to the Health Director by the victim, parent or guardian and/or the owner of the animal within 24 hours providing the
Name of victim
Owner the animal
Physicians must also report the sex of the person.
As an animal officer, you are, in all probability, the designee of the Health Director in rabies control issues and you will receive the reports. All jurisdictions differ, you may receive a report from the Health Director that someone has been bitten. You may receive reports from day cares, hospitals, veterinarians, 911 and other sources. In any or all cases, the Health Director must receive a report. As rabies is a communicable disease, the Communicable Disease – Reporting section describes all who are to report a bite.
Read PG 46, Communicable
Confinement of the biting animal is the first priority to isolate the rabies virus if present. The officer shall make attempts to locate the animal. If the animal is a stray or feral the or an owner cannot be found in 72 hours the Health Director may order it’s destruction and rabies testing. This is generally performed as a result of a request to the Health Director from the animal officer. Dependant on the circumstances the animal will probably be the minimum of 10 days according to (b) Confinement. Note the exception for K9 officers. Home confinement varies throughout the state dependant on the Health Director’s instructions.
§130A‑197. Management of dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to rabies. Your investigation will provide the reasonable suspicion that a dog, cat or ferret has been exposed to a rabid animal. Many times you will not have a proven positive animal as the capture and testing is needed to become proven. Wild animals are elusive. If the animal is captured, it may be difficult to identify the particular animal as the one who provided the exposure. The raccoon, fox and bat are primary vectors and the suspicion an animal came into contact with one of these animals can justify reasonable suspicion. If an animal is reasonably suspected of being exposed, confinement is the best course of action.
§130A‑198. Confinement. An owner of an animal (note this does not specify an animal required to be rabies vaccinated) who believes the animal came into contact with a rabies vector must report the incident. This statute supports §130A‑197 to confine an animal for 10 days and leaves discretion to the Public Health Veterinarian for animals such as livestock. Most dogs, cats and ferrets are confined at the animal shelter.
§130A‑199. Rabid animals to be destroyed; heads to be sent to State Laboratory of Public Health. Brain tissue is used to test for rabies. If an animal under rabies confinement should die, it must be tested. Animals in rabies confinement are kept away from other animals in the facility. The general public should not have any contact with these animals, including the owner of the animal. Owners may want to visit their pet but this should not be allowed.
§130A-200. Confinement or leashing of vicious animals. Many ordinances include this authority for animals causing “bodily harm”. This statute extends beyond §67-4 relating to Dangerous Dogs as it mentions “animals”, at the same time limits the Health Director to simply confining the animal to the owner’s property. When used the requirements for “confined” should be contained in the order.
§130A-201. Rabies Emergency. Protocol for the Health Director is clear in this statute.