An "animal bite" is defined as any incident in which the teeth or claws of an animal known to carry the rabies virus breaks the skin of any human. When a bite or scratch happens, a report must be completed and submitted to the local Health Department. It is not a statement of the animal's behavior or of a person's negligence or liability. It is a public health issue relating to the prevention of rabies, a fatal disease.
Confinement & Vaccination
Animal Control Officers do not want to take your pet, nor are they going to kill it just because it bit someone. Animal Control Officers are going to require that the animal be placed in confinement for 10 days (usually at the owner's home), and that the animal be vaccinated at the end of the 10 days if it is not currently vaccinated at the time of the incident.
The only test for rabies means the animal must be killed and the brain tissue tested for presence of the virus. That is why the 10 day confinement period is required. If the animal remains healthy for the 10 day confinement period, it was not shedding the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the scratch or bite.
Why Animals May Bite
Most bites are accidental or provoked when someone did something to antagonize the animal. Most bites occur at home, within the family, and are directly attributable to a human being's actions. For example, you stepped on your cat's tail or your dog jumped up to get the Frisbee and caught your hand instead.
Other bites are the result of improper socialization or training. This does not excuse the fact that the dog bit, but it does explain why. Fear, territorialism, and possessiveness can all result in a bite response. Unaltered (sexually intact) animals are more likely to bite than those that have been spayed or neutered.
North Carolina Law Requiring Reports
North Carolina law NCGS 130A-196 requires that all animal bites be reported to the local Health Department, even if you are bitten by your own pet, have declined to see a health care provider, or felt the bite was an accident. If you have any questions regarding animal bites or rabies, contact the Craven Pamlico Animal Services Center. Public health is everyone's responsibility, and you are the public.