ORANGE COUNTY, NC (December 16, 2016)—Orange County Animal Services has received its sixth positive rabies test result of the year, according to the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health.  This incident involved a skunk.  The County recorded a total of 10 positive cases last year and 23 the year before. 

The case originated on Thursday, Dec. 15, when a Cedar Grove resident found a dead skunk inside one of his outdoor dog houses. Though no one witnessed the dogs kill the skunk, there were puncture wounds on the skunk, and both dogs appeared to have fresh scratch marks on their noses.  Upon discovering the dead animal, the resident immediately called Animal Control to remove the skunk for rabies testing.

Unfortunately in this case, only one of the two dogs was currently vaccinated against rabies. While the vaccinated dog was able to receive a booster vaccination, the other dog was surrendered and will be humanely euthanized. North Carolina’s rabies laws state that when there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog, cat, or ferret with a valid vaccination history must receive a booster shot within 96 hours (4 days).  By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period up to four (4) months at the owner’s expense.

A Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department has contacted the resident to evaluate his risk of rabies exposure and whether there is a need for the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies. Of concern is the possibility of secondary exposure from the owner having contact with the dogs after the incident. As is always the case, a decision about the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies is based upon an assessment of all the factors involved in this type of situation.

Skunks are not the dominant host species of rabies and contract it from a host species, most often the raccoon. This is known as the “spillover effect.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs, cats, groundhogs and foxes.

The other host species of rabies in our region and others is bats. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in our country in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that citizens immediately contact their animal control program. If an incident involving a bat – or other rabies vector – should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).


Low-cost rabies vaccination clinics for 2017 have been scheduled:

  • Saturday, Jan. 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Phydeaux, 400 S. Elliott Road in Chapel Hill.  This event will be a special off-site fundraiser and will offer 1-year rabies vaccines and microchips.
  • Thursday, Feb. 16, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Animal Services Center, 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.  One and three-year vaccines will be offered at this event, as well as microchips (for an additional $25).

The cost for rabies vaccinations is $10.  Clinic dates for all of 2017 are available at

For more information, please call Orange County Animal Services at 919.942.7387.


  • It is a law in North Carolina that dogs, cats, and ferrets older than four months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times.
  • Orange County’s ordinance also requires that all dogs wear a rabies vaccination tag.
  • Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated within four days (96 hours) or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets.
  • Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to a rabies vector.
  • If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal. Keep visual contact with the animal until Animal Control arrives. 
  • If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area.
  • Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your home even if there is no evidence of a bite.