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Call:  423-209-8110
Fax: 423-209-8111

Rabies Program

An often forgotten but very serious public health concern is rabies. The disease can be deadly to people and animals. Both state and local regulations require all dogs and cats to be properly vaccinated against rabies. To provide a convenient opportunity for all pet owners to have their pets vaccinated, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department partners with Hamilton County Veterinary Medical Association each year to organize rabies vaccination clinics in April.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the number of rabies cases in domestic animals has declined dramatically due to mandatory vaccination laws for dogs and cats. However, rabies among wildlife (especially skunks, bats and raccoons) has become more prevalent, and the higher the incidence of rabies in wildlife, the greater the risk to domestic animals.

All animal to human exposures (bites, scratches, and open wounds) should be reported as soon as possible to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. Exposure to bats (physical contact even without a clear history of a bite) should also be reported. Local emergency rooms and physician’s offices should send bite reports via fax or by calling the Environmental Health office. Our telephone number is 423/209-8110, Fax number is 423/209-8111

How can you protect your pets?

Tennessee law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies and their shots kept up-to-date.  Although cases of rabies in cats in Tennessee are uncommon, there are twice as many rabid cats as dogs in the U.S.  To further protect your pets, keep them confined to a controlled area to limit their exposure to wild animals.

What should you do if you are bitten?

If you are bitten by a wild or domestic animal, or get fresh saliva from the animal into a fresh wound or scratch, then immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes, and seek medical attention immediately. Local or state health officials should be consulted to help determine if rabies treatment is needed.

A normal, healthy dog or cat that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days, and any illness that occurs during confinement should be evaluated by a veterinarian and reported to the local health department. Do not attempt to capture an animal that you suspect has rabies. Notify your local health department or animal control. Rabies in domestic animals can have a variety of signs and symptoms. Rabid animals may display abnormal behavior or an inability to rise or walk or hold the head erect. Drooling and foaming at the mouth are only occasionally observed.


For Further Guidance

See the Hamilton County Health Department’s Rabies Control Program Protocol for detailed information.

Rabies Protocol

Healthcare providers, laboratories, and public health professionals can find more information about this disease and a variety of others at the Tennessee Department of Health Reportable Diseases and Events home page

Tennessee Reported Diseases

CDC Rabies Website

Helpful Hints

  • Never handle wild stray or injured animals

  • Report the location and type of stray or injured animal to the nearest animal control agency or law enforcement agency

  • Keep all pets confined to your property, do not allow them to run at large.

  • Have your pet examined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis.

  • Report all lost or missing pets to the nearest animal control agency or law enforcement agency and give a full description of your pet.

  • Spay or neuter your pet to help control pet over population.

Please contact the Environmental Health Office if you have had an encounter with a wild or stray animal.