Animal Bites

Contact(s)

Why does the Health Unit get involved?

The Health Unit is required by law to respond to all reports of animal-to-human bites and/or scratches. We get involved because of the risk of rabies. Rabies is a serious infection. It must be treated quickly in humans, as it usually leads to death.

To learn more about the law that governs our work related to rabies:

To learn more about rabies:

What is the risk of rabies in Ontario?

In the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit catchment area:
  • 2001 - One cat tested positive for rabies in Field
  • 2013 - Two bats tested positive for rabies, one in Powassan and one in Mattawa

In Ontario:

  • 1967 - The last case of reported human rabies in the province
  • 2012 - One case of human rabies in a Toronto resident who had travelled to the Dominican Republic

While the risk of rabies in our area is low, the Health Unit is required to protect our communities from the rabies virus.

Who reports an animal bite or scratch to the Health Unit?

Anyone who witnesses or is informed of an animal bite or scratch, including doctors, nurses, veterinarians and police officers, must notify the Health Unit as soon as possible (see R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 557, s.2).  

What happens when an animal bite is reported to the Health Unit?

A public health inspector contacts the owner of the animal involved in the bite and/or scratch after receiving a report. The public health inspector completes an isolation order and gives a copy to the owner of the animal. This order explains the isolation requirements for the animal. The public health inspector also explains the isolation process to the owner, as well as what happens if they do not comply with the law.

What happens if the animal has its rabies vaccine?

 Although the rabies vaccine usually prevents rabies, there is the odd chance that it may not be effective.

What is isolation and how long does it last?

Isolation is a period of time when the animal involved in the bite and/or scratch must stay away from people and other animals. Isolation is needed to see if there are any rabies signs and symptoms in the animal. Animal isolation can last 10 to 14 days. During this time, only one designated person can take care of the animal. If this person sees any signs or symptoms of rabies, he/she must immediately report it to the Health Unit.

Where does the isolation take place?

 The Health Unit assesses the situation on a case-by-case basis.
  • If the animal does not have symptoms of rabies, the isolation usually takes place at the owner's home.
  • If the owner is unwilling to isolate for good reasons (e.g., animal is sick, too old, injured, expresses aggressive behaviours, emotional discomfort to the family, etc.) but is cooperating, alternatives to isolation location and/or isolation process may be considered. This may include transfer of the animal to a pound or vet clinic at the cost of the owner/municipality.

If the owner would like to put their animal down prior to the end of the 10-day isolation period, the public health inspector may provide support by arranging sample collection for testing. The owner must arrange and pay for euthanasia prior to sample collection. If the sample cannot be collected (i.e. emotional distress), the public health inspector will recommend that the victim of the animal bite and/or scratch speak with their doctor for post-exposure-prophylaxis treatment. The owner of the animal must freely and independently decide on the fate of their animal without the interference of Health Unit staff.

What happens at the end of the isolation?

 If the animal survives isolation:
  • The bite or scratch victim is informed;
  • The animal is set free;
  • The owner is required to provide proof of rabies vaccination to the Health Unit or may be offered 14 days to produce current certificate of vaccination. In some situations, the public health inspector may extend the deadline; and
  • If the owner is compliant, the case is closed.

If the animal dies during isolation:

  • The owner informs the public health inspector to arrange for testing;
  • The bite or scratch victim is informed and must meet with their doctor for post-exposure-prophylaxis (PEP) treatment until the results from the animal sample are received.:
    • If the results are negative for the rabies virus, the bite or scratch victim discontinues PEP
    • If the results are positive for the rabies virus, the bite or scratch victim continues PEP, and the owner provides the public health inspector with a list of people and other pets who may have been in contact with the animal. The public health inspector contacts these individuals and recommends they meet with their doctor to receive PEP.

 If the animal shows signs and symptoms of rabies:

  • The Medical Officer of Health may require the animal be put down.

What happens if an individual does not comply or cooperate?

The Health Unit has authority to apply enforcement, including providing education, warning, advocacy (referral to low-cost rabies clinics), transfer to pound/veterinary clinic and laying charges (tickets/summons, warrant, orders), removal of the animal, etc. The Medical Officer of Health can order an animal to be isolated at a location other than the owner's property in accordance with the following R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 557, s. 3 (2b).

When would the Medical Officer of Health order an animal be put down?

  1. If signs and/or symptoms of rabies are observed, the Medical Officer of Health may require the destruction of any animal (see R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 557, s. 3 (3), s. 3 (4) and s.3 (5)).
  2. If the animal is declared a health hazard, due to failure to comply with progressive enforcement and following a risk assessment, a public health inspector or Medical Officer of Health can issue an order (see R.S.O. 1990, c. H.7, s. 13 (1) and s. 13 (2)).
  3. After several reported bites by the same animal, the Health Unit may refer the animal to appropriate enforcement (e.g., police, municipal bylaw officer, animal control officer) under the referral to Dog Owner Liability Act (DOLA).

 Can I appeal the Health Unit’s decision?

Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA):

You can appeal an order issued by a public health inspector or the Medical Officer of Health under the HPPA through the Health Services Appeal and Review Board. The procedure of the Appeal Board requires that you mail or deliver a written request for a hearing to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board office within 15 days of receiving the HPPA, Section 13 isolation order.

Health Services Appeal and Review Board
151 Bloor Street West, 9th Floor
Toronto ON M5S 2T5
Telephone: 416-327-8512 or 1-866-282-2179
Facsimile: 416-327-8524
Email: hsarb@moh.gov.on.ca

Charges (e.g. tickets and summons):

You can dispute charges such as tickets and summons through the Ontario Court of Justice.

360 Plouffe Street
North Bay ON P1B 9L5
Telephone: 705-495-8309

89 James Street
Parry Sound ON P2A 1T7
Telephone: 705-746-4251 

Who can access my information?

Your information is collected in accordance with the municipal, provincial and the federal government of acts and regulations. Under disclosure provision, part of your information may not be deemed personal and, therefore, may be disclosed to a person other than you who files a Freedom of Information request in accordance with the related acts. Either the bite or scratch victim or the owner can access their information by formalizing a Freedom of Information request at 705-474-1400 ext. 5400.
North Bay
Parry Sound
Burk's Falls

345 Oak Street West

705-474-1400

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

705-746-5801

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)

1-800-563-2808