Animal Bites & Scratches

What to Do

Any time a warm-blooded animal (dog, cat, skunk, fox, bat, etc.) bites or scratches a person, there is a danger that the animal is infected with rabies. The following precautions should be taken: 

  1. Call 311 at 3-1-1 or 210-207-6000 immediately so we can capture/quarantine the animal.
  2. Provide a description of the animal, including color, breed, and the owner’s name/contact information.
  3. Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water as a first aid procedure.
  4. Consult a physician as soon as possible to determine whether anti-rabies treatment is needed.

If it is an owned dog, cat or ferret, it must be quarantined and observed for signs of rabies. If it is a wild animal, we will submit the wild animal for laboratory testing.

Bite Investigations

The City of San Antonio designates a State of Texas Certified Animal Care Officer to handle animal bite cases.

State law mandates all animal bites or scratches that break skin must be reported to the local rabies control authority. Animal Care Services (ACS) is the local rabies control authority for the City of San Antonio and all rabies exposures must be reported immediately.

If you are a citizen who has been bitten, please call 3-1-1 to report the bite immediately. If you are a representative of a veterinary clinic or medical facility who is reporting a bite, please email ACS Bite Investigation Team to obtain a copy of the Animal Bite Exposure Form.

Dogs, Cats and Ferrets

Regardless of vaccination status, the biting animal must be quarantined for ten (10) days or humanely euthanized.

A pet that has rabies vaccination may be quarantined at home if approved by a supervisor or at a vet clinic.

If humanely euthanized, an officer will be required to submit the brain to the State Laboratory for testing. If the animal is to be quarantined, the observation period will be ten (10) twenty-four hour periods or 240 hours from the time of the bite.

High-Risk Animals

If the biting animal is a known carrier of rabies, they will be humanely euthanized and submitted for rabies testing.

Low-Risk Animals

Opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats, and armadillos do not need to be quarantined or tested. They will only be tested if an officer has reason to believe that the biting animals has rabies.


Quarantine means placing the dog or cat in a State approved facility that provides isolation. The quarantine observation period is 10 days from the date of the bite or scratch. 

After the observation period, the dog or cat will be checked by a veterinarian. If the veterinarian deems the dog or cat healthy, they will be released from quarantine. While in quarantine, the dog or cat cannot have contact with other animals or persons and will be observed daily.

Home Quarantine

The officer in charge of the bite case may allow home quarantine if:

  • The biting animal was currently vaccinated and was not stray/loose or roaming beyond the owner’s property at the time of the bite
  • The victim is a member of the family of the biting animal
  • The dog/cat owner’s personal vet observes the dog/cat at least on the first and last days of the quarantine period

Once an animal has been placed in quarantine, only a licensed veterinarian may release the animal from quarantine.

Animal Sickness or Death

If the animal becomes sick or passes away while in quarantine, Animal Care Services (ACS) will submit the animal for testing to determine if the biting animal exposed the victim to rabies. 

You will be notified if the quarantined animal becomes sick or passes away, so you may receive consultation for treatment of rabies.

Quarantine Costs

Texas State Law requires the owner of a biting animal to pay the cost of quarantine.

Rabies Vaccinations

If you own a dog, cat, or ferret, your pet is required to get vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. You are also required to get a second inoculation against rabies one year later, and then tri-annually.

The rabies vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian, or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. A rabies vaccine can be only sold to veterinarians. Veterinarians must issue a completed rabies vaccination certificate for dogs, cats and ferrets.