Ohio’s Rabies Protocol
Even in this era of modern science, the rabies virus has a 100% fatality rate in humans when left untreated. Once contracted, it quickly spreads throughout the central nervous system, causing extreme behavioral abnormalities, suffering, and death.
Animals suspected of transmitting or exposing humans to the virus are either quarantined (in the case of dogs, cats, and ferrets) or killed for testing by the Ohio Department of Health.
Exposure to Rabies (Dog, Cat, or Ferret)
If a dog, cat or ferret has been exposed to rabies, it must be quarantined and isolated at the owner’s expense for six months or until it has been confirmed to be free of the virus. But what is the legal standard for rabies exposure?
The Ohio Administrative Code states in section 3701-3-29 that “any nonhuman mammal [that has been] bitten by a known rabid animal, or that had reasonable probability of having been bitten by a wild carnivorous mammal or bat that is not available for rabies testing shall be regarded as having been exposed to the virus.” In other words, it is important to bear in mind that confirmation of a bite is not required for an animal to be considered a rabies risk.
Infliction of Bite (Dog, Cat, or Ferret)
If a dog, cat or ferret bites or otherwise exposes a human to rabies, it must be quarantined and isolated until it has been confirmed to be free of the virus. During this time, the animal is under the jurisdiction of the Health Commissioner of the district in which the bite was inflicted.
Even if the animal is later declared rabies-free, further repercussions may apply if a bite was inflicted (see Dog Bites).
Quarantine (Dog, Cat, or Ferret)
Once quarantined, the Health Commissioner may order that the dog, cat or ferret be examined by a licensed veterinarian (at the owner’s expense). If the animal’s owner is unknown, the Health Commissioner can order that the animal be humanely killed and examined for rabies at any time.
Once the dog, cat or ferret is exposed or otherwise deemed a rabies risk, it cannot be released from quarantine until it has been deemed rabies-free by the Health Commissioner and given a current rabies vaccination status by a licensed veterinarian.
If an animal other than a dog, cat or ferret (including hybrids) is exposed to rabies, it must be quarantined for a minimum period of six months. If any animal dies before the quarantine period is over, its head must be removed and submitted to the Bureau of Public Health for a laboratory examination.
Testing for Rabies
Unfortunately, a valid rabies test can only be performed by removing and examining the exposed subject’s brain; therefore, any animal tested for the rabies virus must first be humanely killed. The animal’s head or brain is then transported to the nearest Bureau of Public Health Laboratory for testing.