Animal Control Frequently Asked Questions

Unfriendly Dogs

If I am in my yard and a strange dog walks past my house, can I go and pat him?

NO, the only time you should pat a dog you don’t know is if you have permission. So, if a person and a dog are walking past your house and you want to pat the dog, ask permission.

What do I do if an unfriendly dog approaches me?

Do not run, scream or talk. Just stand still and be quiet. Don’t look directly at the dog, even if he comes up to sniff you. You can look at his tail or his foot, but don’t look into his eyes. In dog language, that is a threat. Remember; quiet, still, no staring. Most likely the dog will lose interest once he looks you over. Then you can slowly move away.

How do I approach a dog?

Walk up to the dog from the side, not the back or directly in front.

Hold out your knuckle and let him sniff your hand, this method keeps your fingers protected. That’s how dogs tell who you are by sniffing. Pat him under his chin or on the side. Never pat a dog by coming down over the top of his head or the back of his neck because it is threatening. Practice by patting your pet dog correctly.

What do I do if I fall down?

Remember; quiet, still, no staring. If you are down and the dogs seems to want to bite you, slowly curl into a ball and fold your hands behind your neck.

Finding Home for a Pet

Guidelines for Finding a Responsible Home for a Pet

Do you feel you can no longer keep your pet and want to find a new home for him or her? Perhaps you are frustrated with a behavior problem. Or your child has pet allergies. Or you are having trouble finding rental housing that accepts your pet.

Many pet-related problems can be frustrating, and you may feel that relinquishing your pet is the only solution. But before you take that drastic step, be aware of the wealth of resources available to help pet owners such as yourself deal with problems that can seem overwhelming.

Behavior Problems

If you are dealing with a pet behavior problem, consider first consulting with your veterinarian. Many problems may be due to a treatable medical condition. For example, a housetrained pet may begin urinating in the house due to a urinary tract infection rather than a behavior problem. Your veterinarian will be able to rule out any physical cause of the problem and may also be able to refer you to an animal behaviorist or trainer in your community who has the experience and expertise to help address your pet’s behavior problem.

There are also several sites on the Internet that offer helpful tips on solving pet behavior problems. In fact, The HSUS’s Pets for Life campaign has over 43 informational web pages addressing common pet behavior problems.

Housing Problems

In a recent study, “moving” and “landlord won’t allow” were among the top reasons for the relinquishment of pets to shelters. If you are moving and are having trouble finding pet-friendly housing, or are experiencing other pet-related housing difficulties, please visit the HSUS’s

Health Problems

Do you or a family member have a health problem (for example, an allergy or an infection that weakens the immune system) that makes it difficult to keep your pet? Has a physician actually recommended you give up your pet? Before taking such a drastic step, read our information on how you can help an allergic or immunocompromised person keep their pet without sacrificing their health or comfort.

Your best resource is your local animal shelter.

Most shelters screen potential adopters to make sure that they will be able to provide a safe, responsible, and loving home for your pet. The easiest place to start your search for your local animal shelter is online at or Here you can enter your zip code and find a list of animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community. You may also want to look in your phone book. Animal shelters are called by a variety of names, so look in the Yellow Pages under listings such as “animal shelter,” “humane society,” or “animal control.” Public animal care and control agencies are often listed under the city or county health department or police department. You can also call information at 411.

If you have a dog of a specific breed, there may be a breed rescue organization in your area that will accept him and work to find him a new home. People with in-depth knowledge of a specific breed usually run purebred rescue groups. Rescue groups keep adoptable animals until they can be placed in loving, permanent homes. To locate a rescue group that specializes in your dog’s breed, contact your local animal shelter go to or You can also call The HSUS at 202-452-1100 (ask for the Companion Animals section), and we can help you find out if there is a breed-rescue group near you.

In some cases, breed rescues only work with animal shelters and may not accept pets directly from owners. Be sure to find out as much as you can about the rescue group, and always carefully screen a breed rescue organization before relinquishing your pet. You should make sure the current animal residents appear well cared for, that the group screens potential adopters, and that the group offers post-adoption support services. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

If you decide to try to find a new home for your pet yourself, rather than relying upon a local animal shelter or rescue organization, be sure the animal’s best interests remain your top priority. Finding a new home for a pet can be difficult. A “good” home means a home where the animal will live for the rest of his or her life, where he or she will receive attention, veterinary care, proper nutrition, and be treated as part of the family.

If you choose to find a home for your pet yourself, follow these guidelines:

  • Advertise through friends, neighbors, and local veterinarians first; then try the newspaper, if all else fails. Your chances of finding a good home are increased when you check references with someone you know.
  • Visit the prospective new home in order to get a feel for the environment in which your pet will be living. Explain that the pet is part of your family and that you want to make sure she will be cared for properly and that you want to see how the animal responds to the new home. Screen potential homes carefully.
  • Don’t be fooled. If anyone refuses to allow you to visit their home, do not place your pet with them. Individuals known as “bunchers” routinely answer “free-to-good-home” ads, posing as people who want family pets when, in actuality, they sell pets to animal dealers. Dogfighters have also been known to obtain domestic animals for baiting through “free to good home” ads. These people are “professionals” who may even bring children or their mothers with them when picking up pets.
  • Always be mindful of your own safety when you go to interview potential adopters or if you allow a prospective adopter to enter your home.
  • Carefully consider all the elements of the new home: Will your pet get along with small children? Is the family planning to keep the dog chained outside as a watchdog? Will the cat be kept only as a mouser? Does the family have a veterinary reference? Do not be shy about asking questions. Your pet’s life and happiness may depend on it.
  • Ask for a valid form of identification (preferably a driver’s license). Record the number for your records and require the new owner to sign a contract stating the requirements of adoption upon which both parties agree. As part of the contract, require the new owner to contact you if he or she decides at some point that they must give up the pet.
  • Have your pet neutered or spayed before he or she goes to the new home. This will make the animal more adoptable and help stop irresponsible breeding.
  • If your pet is chronically ill or has behavior problems, it may be difficult to find him a suitable home. A new owner may not be willing or able to deal with these issues, and it may also be difficult for the pet to adjust to a new home. The decision to humanely euthanize such a pet should not be made without thoughtful input from a veterinarian, a behaviorist, and the family, based on how well they believe their companion would adapt to a new home.

Finding a quality home for your pet can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Remember: Your local animal shelter has a qualified staff trained to screen and counsel adopters. Relinquishing your pet to your local shelter may be the best option for you and your pet.

Losing a Pet

Losing a Dog or Cat

  • Call your local animal control officer (and ACO’s in nearby towns/cities)- in Massachusetts, many ACO’s work for the police department, but are a separate office in the department.
  • Call local police (and police in nearby towns).
  • Call friends for help-someone could hang posters and someone could make phone calls while you are out searching.
  • Call neighbors to learn whether they have seen your animal.
  • Make reward poster.
  • Hang in plactic sleeves (need sleeves, staple gun, push pins and staples).
  • Tape poster to search cars.
  • Get email, fax, phone, address to send out reward posters to veterinarians, animal shelters, ACO’s, pet suppply stores, groomers, trainers.
  • Organize a search party research and print out a topographical map of the search site for searchers.
  • Knock on doors and leave letters for neighbors outlining where people can look on their own property.
  • Register lost pet on web sites (A HUGE JOB recruit friends to help).
  • Set up live traps.
  • Check lost and found columns in newspapers.
  • Take out ads in body of newspapers (AND in classified section).
  • Have media list available-contact newspapers, tv, radio stations – there might be a story in it for them, especially if it is a slow news day.

Losing a Cat

  • Indoor cats are usually hidden nearby, in protective mode, in their “new territory”.
  • Even knowing his person’s voice he/she will not respond, won’t come out of hiding and will be unwilling his/her new territory
  • Hiding nearby within the radius of his home of just a few houses, is typical behavior
  • Hiding under a porch, car, or heavy brush is usually the case
  • It’s an instinct to go into protective mode; ignoring your presence and voice.
  • While his/her outdoor cat counterparts could become trapped and unable to return home, it would be unlikely for this to happen to him/her. Because his surroundings are so unfamiliar and scary, he/she probably won’t exhibit curious cat behavior and get into trouble.
  • Searching every possible hiding place thoroughly is essential-because he/she won’t come running like a dog might.
  • Since he/she will hide and remain still, he/she is less likely to be killed by a car; outdoor cats have more of a chance of this happening, as they are more comfortable outdoors and will roam.

If after all of this, your cat remains lost, go door to door.

  • With pad and pen, write down who you spoke to, also leaving your name and number for the neighbors.
  • Put up posters around the neighborhood. Leave posters at vet clinics, local shelters (even those out of your area), and all over the neighborhood. When putting up your posters don’t forget to check the “found cat” posters.
  • Ask neighbors to look and listen for a cat in their area, while also checking their garage or other buildings, look in their trees, check their basements.
  • And ask them to call your cat’s name and listen carefully for signs of distress.
  • Then ask permission to enter their property to look for yourself (the cat might be too frightened to respond to a stranger).
  • Check with neighbors about noticing a new cat in the area.
  • Don’t rule out neighbor malice. Visit shelters, and ask neighbors if they are aware of any cat trapping in the neighborhood.
  • Ask neighborhood kids if they have seen anything. Kids can be a great source of neighborhood goings-on.
  • Likewise with your postal carrier. Give him/her a flyer or a photo with the cat’s name and your name/phone on the back.
  • Vets occasionally treat cats identified as “strays”. Ask for a description; vets will stabilize injured cats before they are taken into the animal shelter.
  • Place ads. Offer a reward (beware of dishonest reward-seekers).
  • Check Animal Control frequently, look in their kennels and leave a photo of your cat at the front desk.
  • Don’t give up. Cats can last days without food or water. They also can hide very well, remember, and may not be rescued by animal control or a citizen for many weeks after their initial disappearance.

Every time I call the office I get a voice mail why isn’t any one at the office?

The New Bedford Police Animal Control Department personnel consists of three animal control officers covering different shifts one per, at times having one person covering the whole city. If you get the voice mail please leave a detailed message and the ACO that is on will return your call as soon as possible. If the call is for an injured animal, animals in distress, or emergency please call the New Bedford Police Dispatch at 508- 991-6350.

What are the hours of the NBPD Animal Control Department?

Our Animal Control Officers work 7 days a week, from 8am to 4pm and are on call after hours for emergencies by calling the NBPD 508- 991-6350.


I am thinking of buying a cat where can I buy one?

We suggest you adopt your cat from a rescue agency or a shelter where you can save a life.

Why should I spay & neuter my cat?

There are just not enough homes each day thousands of cats are put to death in Massachusetts. (let’s do some quick math)

  • An average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year: three (3)
  • Average number of kittens in a litter: 4-6
  • In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.

Is it true that cats aren’t happy unless they can go outside to roam and hunt?

Cats like to play, prowl, pounce, and they can do all those activities indoors with you and a few toys without being exposed to predators, disease, traps, poison and traffic. Indoor cats are healthier, happier- and safer and live longer!

Do Cats need to wear a collar and tags?

An identification tag is a lost cat’s ticket home, 2-5% of cats in shelter get claimed by their owner.

If I put a collar on my cat will it injure it?

Many cat owners believe a collar can injure a cat, but a breakaway collar lets a cat escape if the collar becomes snagged.

I have a stray cat in my yard what do I do?

Contact your neighbors, it maybe a new cat in the neighborhood or a neighbors cat that just got out.

I have contacted my neighbors it’s not theirs now what do I do?

You may contact your local animal control to help you catch the cat, or contact Habitat for Cats 508- 961-2287 they will work with you on trapping the cat.


I am thinking of buying a dog where can I buy one?

We suggest you adopt your dog from a rescue agency or shelter save a dogs life. “adopt don’t shop”

My dog stays outside does he need anything?

All animals that stay outside need proper shelter, (basically a doghouse) food, and water.

My dog stays in the house does he need to be vaccinated?

The Massachusetts General Laws state that by the age of six (6) months all dogs must be vaccinated.

What is the citation for not having a vaccinated dog?

The violation of keeping an unvaccinated dog is $50.00 dollars. The owner or keeper can be cited every ten days for the violation.

My dog never leaves my property does it need a license?

The Massachusetts General Laws state that all dogs by the age of three (3) months must be licensed at their city or town hall.

What is the citation for not having a licensed dog?

The violation for an unlicensed dog is $25.00 per violation. The owner or keeper can be cited for the violation everyday until the dog is licensed.

I work all day and cant get to city hall to license my dog is there a way I could get this done?

Yes, you could license your dog by mail just down load the “license by mail form” and follow the easy steps to a licensed dog.

How much does the license cost?

For an unspayed or unneutered dog the license cost is $20.00 a year.
For a neutered or spayed dog the license fee is only $10.00 a year.
(If the owner brings in a certificate showing the dog has passed the dog training course, you can save $5.00 each year when licensing.)

Barking Dogs

My neighbors dog constantly barks and is a nuisance to our neighborhood what could we do?

A barking dog complaint is one of the most time consuming and intense investigations Animal Control does. It takes time and help from the complainant to end this problem, some complaints take one (1) week to sometimes six (6) months every complaint is different in some way.

How could I make a complaint?

You could either call our office 508- 991-6366 or e-mail your compliant to us the more information you give us the better we will be able to handle this complaint.

Will you have to tell the dog owner who reported the complaint?

NO! It’s against the law to divulge the name of the complainant it’s very important to us to know the complainant, at times it helps to speed up the process.

How about if my neighbor’s dog is barking after hours who do I call?

You can call the New Bedford Police at 508- 991-6350 at put your complaint that your neighbor at (address) dog is being a nuisance and won’t stop barking. They will send the area car to investigate and then inform the Animal Control Department of the findings. We will then further investigate your complaint.

Is there a fine or a law against a Barking Dog?

Yes! Well it’s not only a barking dog Mass General Law’s state that a nuisance by reason of excessive barking or other disturbance maybe considered a nuisance. The City of New Bedford City Ordinance that three confirmed complaints in a calendar year is a $100.00 fine.

I am a dog owner what steps can I take to keep my dog from barking?

Excessive barking is nothing new. Dogs appear to enjoy barking, and they do so for various reasons. They bark when they want something, when they say “hello,” when they are having fun, when they are startled or alarmed, when they are defending their territory or threatening someone, when they are frustrated, and when they hear other dogs barking. Unfortunately, a dog who barks incessantly can drive the family crazy-and disturb the entire neighborhood.

Many owners can identify why their dog is barking, just by hearing the specific bark. If you want to reduce your dog’s barking, it is imperative to determine the dog’s reason for barking. Understand that it usually takes time to teach a dog to bark less. It is not realistic to expect a quick fix or to expect that the dog will stop barking altogether. Your goal should be to decrease the amount of barking. Bear in mind that some dogs are more prone to barking than others. In addition, some breeds are known as “barkers,” and it may be more difficult to decrease barking in individuals of these breeds.

The most common reasons why dogs bark: Territorial or protective defense

  • Distress vocalizations due to fear or separation anxiety
  • Excitement or greeting
  • During play
  • To gain attention or to make requests
  • Frustration
  • Socially facilitated barking (hearing other dogs bark)
  • Compulsive behavior


  • Prevent the dog from being exposed to the things that trigger him to bark. You should block access to windows, and cover them so he can’t see out. Play background music to mask outside sounds, change the sound of your doorbell, and bring him in from the yard whenever he barks.
  • Counter Conditioning Instructions #1: If the dog continues to bark despite your efforts to block his exposure to things, teach him that when someone comes to the door or passes by the property, he is permitted to bark until you say “Quiet.” Allow him to bark 3-4 times, say “Quiet,” (avoid shouting), go to the dog and gently hold his muzzle closed with your hand and repeat “Quiet,” call him away from the door or window, ask him to sit, and give him a treat. If he stays beside you and remains quiet, continue to give him frequent treats for the next few minutes (until the stimulus is gone). If he resumes barking right away, repeat the sequence. Go through the same steps if the dog is barking at passersby from the yard.
  • Counter Conditioning Instructions #2: If the above procedure is ineffective after 10-20 attempts, allow the dog to bark 3-4 times, say “Quiet” (avoid shouting), and make a startling noise by shaking an empty soda can filled with pennies or a set of keys. He should react to the sound by stopping what he’s doing. Call him away from the door or window, ask him to sit, and give him a treat. If he stays beside you and remains quiet, continue to give him frequent treats for the next few minutes (until the stimulus is gone). If he resumes barking right away, repeat the sequence. If this doesn’t work after 10-20 attempts, you will need to seek assistance from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a Veterinary Behaviorist, or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
  • Counter Conditioning Instructions #3: If the dog barks at people and other dogs during walks, distract the dog with special treats before he begins to bark. Show the dog the treats by holding them in front if his nose (soft treats are best) and encourage him to nibble at the treats while he is walking along, past the person or dog who would normally cause him to bark. Some dogs do best if you ask them to sit as the person/dog passes by, while other dogs prefer to keep moving. Make sure you praise and reward the dog with treats every time he elects not to bark. – It may help to have the dog wear a head halter during occasions when the dog is likely to bark (on walks, in the home, etc.). Your dog should only wear the halter when you can supervise him. A halter can have a distracting and/or calming effect, and make him less likely to bark. Make sure you reward him for not barking. – If the dog is engaging in territorial barking primarily in the yard, keep the dog in the house during the day and supervise him when he is in the yard. – If the dog is engaging in territorial barking in the car, teach the dog to ride in a crate while in the car. This restricts the dog’s view and may reduce his motivation to bark. If this is not feasible, try having the dog wear a head halter.

If your dog barks at people coming to the door, at people or dogs walking by the property, at people or dogs he sees on walks, and at people or dogs he sees through the fence-and the barking is accompanied by whining, tail wagging, and other signs of friendliness-your dog is barking to say hello. He may very likely bark in the same manner when family members come home.


  • Keep greetings low key. Teach the dog to sit and stay when meeting people at the door so he has something to do aside from barking. This should reduce his excitement.
  • If your dog likes toys, keep a favorite toy near the front door and encourage your dog to pick up the toy before he greets you or guests. If the dog learns to hold a toy in his mouth, he’s less inclined to bark. He will likely still whine, though.
  • On walks, teach your dog to walk calmly past people and dogs without greeting them. To do this, follow the Counter Conditioning Instructions #3, above.

Some dogs are particularly noisy when they play with people or with other dogs. If you have multiple dogs and they like to bark while they play, put them outside so they don’t bother you. If they bother the neighbors, bring them inside and separate them during times when you can’t tolerate the barking. Encourage the dogs to play with toys so they have something in their mouths. If your dog barks while playing with you, simply play different games-if he barks while wrestling with you, teach him to play tug-of-war or fetch games. It’s unfair to expect dogs not to play, so make arrangements for your dog to play (and bark) at times when it won’t disturb people.

Dog Bites

A wild animal bit my animal what do I need to do?

Take your pet to a veterinarian within 24 hours. If the attacker is at risk for rabies, for example, a raccoon, skunk, woodchuck, fox, or bat, handle your pet with gloves and wash any area, which may have saliva from the attacker on it.

What should I do to protect my animal from wild life?

To prevent your pet from being bitten by another animal, keep pets under control at all times and in the house at night.

How could I keep my child safe from being bitten?

You can prevent children from being bitten by:

  • Keeping children away from dogs or cats that are eating;
  • Keeping children away from strange and stray animals;
  • Keeping them away from sick or injured animals;
  • Not allowing children to take a toy or ball from an animal that is playing with it.

If I am bitten what do I need to do?

You should seek medical attention immediately; animal bites should be taken care of immediately due to infection and possible treat to rabies.

How to Avoid Being Bitten

Points to Remember:

  • Never go into someone else’s yard to pat a dog.
  • Never try to pat a dog that is chained up.
  • Don’t reach through a car window to pat a dog.
  • Even if the dog is one that you know and who likes you, he may not recognize you. So stay away unless you have the owner’s permission.

The Safe Way to Meet a Strange Dog:

  • Stand quietly with your arms at your sides.
  • Do not shout at the dog.
  • Do not wave your arms, grab at the dog or run away.
  • If a dog looks frightened or angry, leave it alone.
  • Do not look straight into the dog’s eyes.
Spay and Neuter

Why should I spay my dog?

    • Spaying helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives.

      Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer, particularly when your pet is spayed before her first estrous cycle.

  • What is the average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year?

    Two (2) (lets do some quick math ready scroll down)

    • Average number of puppies in a canine litter: 6-10 puppies
    • In six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs.


    • Number of animals entering shelters each year: 6-8 million
    • Number of animals euthanized by shelters each year: 3-4 million
    • Number of animals adopted from shelters each year: 3-4 million
    • Number of cats and dogs reclaimed by owners from shelters each year: Between 600,000 and 750,000 — 30% of dogs and 2-5% of cats entering shelters.

    Why should I neuter my dog?

    • Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and decreases the incidence of prostate cancer.
    • Neutering makes pets less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away, or get into fights and cause neighborhood nuisances.

    Is there any help for spaying and neutering my animal?

    Yes, There are a lot of veterinary hospitals that offer low cost programs you could also contact some low cost clinics to seek their programs.

    Animal Abuse

    How do I know if my neighbor is abusing their animal?

    If you believe an animal is being abused, there are a few simple steps you can take in order to help.

    • You can call us at 508- 991-6366 or e-mail us a complaint
    • Call the Animal Rescue League of Boston Law Enforcement Department 1-617-426-9170 x 110
    • Call the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 1-800-628-5808

    What do I need to know to make a complaint?

    Document information such as time of the incident, person committing the act (description of person, if identity is unknown) exact location (such as proper address of where the animal lives or license plate of vehicle being driven) and as much information about the animal being abused (breed, color, size, where it is kept)

    If the life of an animal is in immediate danger contact the local police at once New Bedford Police 508- 991-6350.

    How do I know if the animal is being abused?

    Mass General Laws provide for the basic necessities of an animal. Food water, and shelter are among the most common concerns, as well as actual physical abuse.


    I am thinking of buying a Ferret where can I buy one?

    We suggest you adopt your Ferret from a rescue agency where you can save a life, call the Massachusetts Ferret Friends hotline at: 781-224-1098 or e-mail

    Do Ferrets get along with other animals?

    While ferrets get along great with cats and dogs under supervision – they can do serious harm to birds, rabbits, and other small pets.

    Do ferrets need to be vaccinated for Rabies?

    Yes they do, same as dogs and cats.

    Can ferrets live in the wild?

    NO!!! Ferrets have been domesticated for over 1000 years and cannot survive in the wild for more than a few days.

    I can no longer keep my ferret what can I do with it?

    If you can’t keep your ferret, please do not release it into the wild where it will most certainly die a horrible death, CALL your local animal control office, a shelter, or Massachusetts Ferret Friends at 781-224-1098 or e-mail them abandoning an animal outside is against the law.


    I have problems with wildlife what are my choices? Can I capture it?

    Massachusetts’s law prohibits capturing a wild animal and releasing it in another area. You can contact a (PAC AGENT) Problem Animal Control Agent who may assist you with the problem their number is in the phone book.

    Is there any information on line that I could turn to?

    The MSPCA has a web cite living with it has some helpful information. Or you may contact them at 617-522-7400 or e-mail then at

    Why can’t Animal Control take care of my problem?

    We also follow under the same strict guidelines as you do. We are not licensed (PAC AGENTS) the only thing Animal Control could help is if the animal is injured then the animal will be Euthanized.


    What is Rabies?

    Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that is almost always fatal.

    How is Rabies spread?

    The rabies virus can lives in the saliva (spit) and other body fluids of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus can also be spread if one of these body fluids touches broken skin or a mucous membrane.

    How can I tell if an animal is rabid?

    Rabid animals often behave strangely after the virus attacks their brains. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no real reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem to be unnaturally friendly. Not all rabid animals act this way, however, so you should avoid all wild animals, especially bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons. Also, you should not feed or touch stray cats and dogs.

    What should you do if you think you have been exposed to rabies?

    If you have been bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, or by a pet or farm animal that has been behaving oddly, follow these steps:

    • Wash the wound with soap and water right away for at least five minutes.
    • Call your local Board of Health and your doctor, nurse or health center as soon as you finish washing. They will help you decide if you need to be treated for rabies. Follow their instructions to the letter.
    • Contact your local animal control officer to catch or find the animal that scratched or bit you. Your local board of health can tell you how to get it tested by the State Rabies Lab.
    • If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal you think might be rabid, wear gloves to touch it. Follow the steps above but call your pet’s veterinarian instead of your own doctor in step 2.

    How can you prevent rabies?

    • Avoid wild animals, especially bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons. Do not feed or pet strays. Avoid any animal -wild, farm or pet – that you do not know. Report any animal that behaves oddly to your local animal control official.
    • Make sure that your pets are inoculated against rabies and that their shots are up to date. BY LAW ALL DOGS AND CATS MUST BE VACCINATED AGAINST RABIES.
    • Feed pets indoors and keeps them indoors at night. If they are outside during the day, keep them on a leash or fenced in so they cannot wander. Even vaccinated pets can get rabies. Pets allowed to roam freely are more likely to get rabies and bring it into your home.
    • Fasten trashcan lids tightly. Garbage attracts animals (like skunks, raccoons and strays) looking for an easy meal.
    • Teach your children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they don’t know well. Do not let your children roam freely in areas where wild animals live.
    • It is against state law to keep wild animals such as skunks, or raccoons as pets. There are no rabies vaccines for most wild species.
    • Cap your chimney with screens and block openings in attics, cellars and porches to keep wild animals like bats and raccoons out of your home.
    • If you have bats in your house, talk to a professional about bat proofing your home.
    • Do not handle dead, sick or injured wild animals yourself: call the police or animal control officer. If you must handle the animal, use heavy gloves, sticks or other tools to avoid direct contact.
    • Animal Control Officers, veterinarians and their assistants, and others who have a lot of contact with strays or wildlife should think about getting routine rabies vaccinations to protect themselves before they are exposed to the virus.
    • a. Your doctor, nurse, or health center
    • b. Your local Board of Health Listed in the phone directory under local government.
    • c. Massachusetts Department of Public Health Division of Epidemiology 617-522-3700 ext 420 or ext 425