Rabid Animal? Don’t Shoot!

I specialize in rescuing rabies vector species. Among the most frustrating calls, messages, and comments I receive are from people bragging about how they saw a “rabid” animal, and reacted by shooting it in the head.

When an animal does have genuinely rabies-like symptoms, it must be euthanized, not just for human safety, but for the sake of sparing it terrible suffering. However, a bullet to the head is one of the worst possible ways to dispatch a rabid animal, because rabies testing requires an examination of brain tissue. Often, an animal that was shot in the head can’t be tested for rabies because of the damage. And shooting the animal anywhere besides the head is a cruel and painful way to end its life.

If you see an animal that you suspect is rabid because it is staggering, hypersalivating, convulsing, or extremely aggressive: please immediately call your local health department, animal control officers, or wildlife rehabilitators in order to have the animal humanely euthanized and appropriately tested. Shooting should be a last resort only for emergencies.

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