The All Dreaded... Dog Quarantine
Some may know from past experience about the protocol that must be followed after a dog bites (or scratches!) a person or other animal. Regardless of rabies vaccination status, the biting dog is issued 10-day quarantine paperwork. Usually, this means a HOME quarantine and requires the dog to stay on the property or on a leash if walked off the property until the Animal Inspector visits to release the dog from the quarantine. The dog should not encounter other animals or people other than the owner or caretaker for 10-days.
What is this all about? Simply put it is the State rabies law and as long as the local Animal Inspector can confirm the biting dog is healthy after 10-days, the person or other animal bit has no risk of rabies.
But Why? If a dog or cat has the rabies virus and that virus has made it to the brain, it can be spread via saliva. When a dog or cat reaches this stage of infection it will get very sick and pass away within a few days and most certainly within 10 days. I understand that sounds morbid but that is the science behind these regulations. So…even if two dogs are vaccinated and get into a squabble resulting in any breakage of skin, we always must follow up. Rabies is 100% fatal and this protocol eliminates the tiniest chance that rabies is a concern.
From my years of experience...
I have issued hundreds of these quarantines so it is routine for me but I understand the concern or even panic, from the animal owner. These 10-day quarantines are by no means a punishment, the only purpose is for a quick health check on day 10. Dogs that are best friends can cause injuries to each other while playing. Friendly dogs may be attacked by an aggressive dog and when defending itself can cause injury to the aggressor resulting in the friendly dog getting quarantined. (I hope that made sense!) There are so many variables!
I play two roles in Weston. I serve as both the Animal Control Officer and the State Animal Inspector. As Animal Inspector I address the health issues involving domestic animals including the spread of rabies which these quarantines would fall under. In my role as an Animal Control Officer, I address public safety issues and would be concerned with a dog involved with an unprovoked attack, repeat incidents, etc. Most quarantines don’t necessarily raise red flags for me with regards to public safety concerns.
All this being said…if your dog is injured by another dog resulting in a wound then you should always collect the information on the other dog owner and dog. It is best to obtain the name, address, and phone of the owner and dog name and description are important. Of course, ask if the dog has a current rabies vaccination and the details. All veterinarians must report animal bites to the local animal inspector. If the information on the biting dog is not provided to the animal inspector then the dog that received the bite is quarantined for 45 days if previously vaccinated or 4 months is never vaccinated against rabies. This of course does not sound fair but it is what it is. This situation can be detrimental when a puppy is involved because a long quarantine can interfere with the period of time when a pup NEEDS to socialize with other dogs to learn from them.
Help Us, Help You
If the biting dog is another household dog (very common) or a neighbor’s dog, some dog owners do not want to provide the information as it was ‘an accident,’ ‘it was my dog’s fault’, or ‘the dogs were just playing.’ It’s okay! Like I said before, I issue the paperwork and say, I’ll be back in 10-days for a very quick visit to observe that the dog is alive and well. A quarantine is not a mark on your dog’s record.
Cooperation is greatly appreciated with these protocols. I can’t change the rules and can’t sign off on a case without the cooperation of the owner. If an owner doesn’t respond then I have to keep stopping by and calling…again and again..and no one wants that!
This protocol is even more important when the human gets bit. Most humans are not vaccinated against rabies. It is important that the dog (or cat!) information is collected so I or the Animal Inspector in the Town in which the animal resides can follow up with the animal. If the animal is not identified your physician may just recommend post-exposure rabies prophylaxis.
If you are looking for more information regarding quarantine protocol, reference the State protocols for domestic animal exposures:
Rabies Protocol Management of Dogs & Cats Exposed to Other Domestic Animals (mass.gov)
Rabies Protocol Management of Dogs & Cats Which Bite Humans (mass.gov)
I hope everyone has a great 2022!
ACO Karen O’Reilly