Animal Bites and Rabies Prevention


What is Rabies?

  • Rabies is a deadly, but preventable disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any infected human or mammal (e.g., raccoons, dogs, skunks, foxes).
  • The rabies virus is mainly found in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in an open wound, the eyes, the nose, or the mouth.
  • You can only become sick with rabies if the saliva or brain/spinal tissue of an infected animal enters an open wound (including from a bite or scratch from an infected animal), or gets into your mouth, nose or eyes.

How Can I Prevent Rabies?

Get Pets Vaccinated


Stay Away from Wild Animals

  • Stay away from wild, unknown, or aggressive animals.
  • Do not handle dead animals.
  • To request removal of a dead animal that could pose a risk of rabies, specifically raccoons, foxes, and bats, call AWLA at 703-931-9241.

Keep Pets Leashed

  • Don’t let pets roam free. Keep them on your property or use a leash when away from home. Arlington County law requires pets to be leashed when away from home or outside of a County dog park.

Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water.
  • Seek medical care. There is a series of vaccines you can get after the bite and before symptoms begin to prevent rabies. You can also get treatment for other possible infections that could be caused by the bite.
  • If your pet is bitten, contact your veterinarian for medical care.

Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior

  • If you or your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild or domestic animal, call AWLA.
  • For human bites, also call the Arlington County Public Health Division at 703-228-5200, Option 1.
  • If you see an animal acting strangely, do not go near it and report it to AWLA.

There’s a Bat in My Home, Now What?   

Big brown bat

  • Remain calm! Bats make their way into homes accidentally and fly around to find a way out. Bats cannot bite when in flight.
  • Do NOT open windows/doors or attempt to handle or catch the bat.
  • If possible, shut the bat in the room behind you as you exit.
  • Do not leave pets behind in the area with the bat.
  • Call Animal Control immediately (24/7) at 703-931-9241
  • After hours, stay on the line to speak with the answering service; they will immediately alert the officer on call.
  • Stay on the scene until Animal Control arrives.