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Health Officials Urge Residents to Avoid Contact with Wild and Stray Animals

By Crystal Steele

March 17, 2020

March 17, 2020

Crystal Steele

Walton County— The Florida Department of Health in Walton County (DOH-Walton) urges
residents to avoid contact with wild and stray animals to protect themselves from the risk of
rabies exposure.

In Florida, raccoons, bats and foxes
, and unvaccinated cats are the animals most frequently
diagnosed with rabies. Other animals that are at high risk for rabies include skunks, otters,
coyotes, bobcats, and stray or unvaccinated dogs and ferrets. Each year, (DOH-
receives reports of rabid animals.
Most recently a fox in the Freeport area, tested positive for

“Rabies is a potentially fatal disease. It is important not to handle wild animals, to be aware of
unusual acting animals, and to keep pets vaccinated against rabies,” said
Holly Holt

Rabies is transmitted through exposure to the saliva and nervous tissue from a rabid animal
through a bite, scratch, or contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.
DOH-Walton works with Walton County Animal Control in responding to incidents of animal
bites, tests animals for rabies through the Department of Health state laboratory, and
quarantines animals as necessary. DOH- Walton also provides rabies vaccinations to victims of
animal bites, the only known effective treatment for rabies prevention in humans.

The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies:
Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock
secured on your property. If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek
veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact
Walton County Animal
Control at 850-892-8682.
Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.”
Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be
properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources
such as uncovered trash or litter.
Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear

Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches,
schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and
Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek
medical attention and report the injury to the DOH-
Walton at 850-892-8021.

For further information on rabies, go to, or contact DOH-Walton at 850-892-8021.

The Department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida
through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida
Department of Health please visit .