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Protect Yourself Around Animals

Safety Tips

  • Never approach a strange dog, particularly one who's confined or restrained.
  • Don't pet a dog, even your own, without letting him/her see and sniff you first.
  • Avoid running past a dog or turning your back on a dog and running away. A dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch fleeing prey.
  • Unless you know the dog very well, don't disturb a dog who's sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Use caution with strange dogs. Always assume that a strange dog may see you as an intruder or a threat.
  • Don't pick up a stray or unknown cat.

If you think a dog may attack:

  • Never scream and run. If you do, you'll probably trigger the dog's chase response and only increase your chances of being attacked. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until he/she is out of sight.
  • More than 60 percent of bite victims are children. Teach your children to remain motionless when a strange dog approaches them.
  • If you allow a strange dog to sniff you, in most cases the dog will leave when he/she decides you aren't a threat.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Staring into a dog's eyes is perceived by the dog as an act of aggression and dominance and will only challenge the dog to attack.
  • In a loud and low voice, tell the dog to "go home".
  • If the dog does attack, "feed" him/her your jacket, purse, or anything that can come between you and the dog.
  • If you fall or are knocked down, curl into a ball and put your hands over your ears. Try not to scream or roll around.

Is There Any Way I Can "Bite-Proof" My Dog?

  • Spay or neuter your pet. Sterilization will not only reduce aggression but will also decrease dog's tendency to roam. However, spaying or neutering won't reduce a dog's protectiveness.
  • Train and socialize your pet. Set appropriate limits on acceptable behavior. Help your dog become a trustworthy member of your family and community.
    Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Don't play aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling, tug of war, or "siccing" your dog on another person. It's essential that your dog recognize you and all the members of your family - including young children as dominant and not challenge your leadership.
  • Be a responsible pet owner. License and vaccinate your dog. For everyone's safety, don't allow him/her to roam. Make your pet a member of your family. Dogs who spend too much time in the doghouse or tied in the backyard have a much greater chance of developing behavioral problems such as aggression. Dogs who are well socialized are much less likely to bite. Do not keep your dog chained - dogs who live their lives chained develop serious aggression problems.
  • Err on the safe side. If you don't know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him/her at home. If your dog may overreact to visitors or delivery persons, keep him/her in another room. Help your dog become accustomed to a variety of situations. Until you're confident of his/her behavior, however, avoid unusual situations.
  • Look for warning signs. Pet owners can often recognize their dog's displays of aggression before an attack occurs. A dog may show aggression by disobeying or showing signs of dominance - especially over small children - such as growling or nipping. Of course, if your dog ever attacks another animal without provocation, seek professional advice immediately. Proper training can usually eradicate aggressive behavior.

Rabies Information

Rabies is caused by a virus. The virus is transmitted via saliva contact with broken skin or mucous membranes. This normally occurs via a bite from an infected animal.

All warm-blooded (homeothermic) animals can get the disease. The carriers of rabies in the midwest are skunks and bats. Though rodents and birds can get the disease, there has never been a documented case of these animals spreading rabies, mainly because they are usually quickly killed by a bite from another animal.

When the virus is contracted, it enters the nerves at the site of the bite. Because the immune system is not very active within the nervous system, the body is not able to make rabies antibodies quick enough to attack the virus and stop the disease.

How does the disease progress?

The virus lies dormant in the nerves for a period of time that varies from a few days to months. This is called the incubation period. If treatment is sought immediately and received during the incubation period, recovery is likely. The incubation period in humans averages 60 days.

After the incubation period, the virus travels through the nerves to the brain. This is when symptoms first appear. Death occurs within a few days of the onset of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

Rabies affects the nervous system. Easily identifiable symptoms in animals include unusual behavior. Wild animals may act aggressively towards inanimate objects or lose their fear of humans and act friendly.

"Foaming at the mouth" may be present during the later stages of the disease, or not at all. "Foaming at the mouth" is caused by excessive drooling, throat muscle spasms or paralysis, and involuntary jaw movements that turn excessive drool into foam.

Early symptoms in humans include pain or numbness at the site of the bite, fever, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, depression, apprehension, anxiety, insomnia, and/or agitation and aggressive behavior. Symptoms rapidly progress to include paralysis, throat spasms, delirium, hallucinations, coma, irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia), and death.

What is the treatment for rabies?

People who have been bitten by a rabid animal are given a series of five rabies vaccinations and a single injection of rabies immune globulin (rabies antibodies). This treatment is considered to be 100% effective when administered within 14 days of rabies exposure.

In the event of a rabies exposure, immediately flushing a bite wound with soap and water for five minutes will greatly reduce the chance of infection.

What is the incidence of rabies in Peoria County?

The incidence of rabies in Peoria County is very low. No human has ever contracted the disease in our county.

There are different strains of the virus that tend to infect different species. The carriers of rabies in the midwest are skunks and bats.

How is rabies controlled?

The spread of rabies is most effectively controlled by vaccinating domestic animals against the disease. All dogs and cats in Peoria County are required by law to be currently vaccinated against rabies. All animal bites to humans that occur in Peoria County must be reported to our office. By law, any time a domestic animal bites a human in Peoria, it must be observed by a licensed veterinarian for rabies. The owners of biting animals are notified of this responsibility by Peoria County Animal Control. Veterinarians notify us when owners bring their animals in for the observation. Owners who do not comply are cited and must appear before a judge to answer the charge. Fines start at $75.00.

Any time a wild animal bites a human in Peoria, it must be euthanized. A sample of brain tissue is transported to the Animal Disease Laboratory to be tested for the presence of the virus.

How often am I required to get my pet vaccinated against rabies?

Cats and dogs over 4 months of age must be vaccinated against rabies once a year. Three-year vaccinations are also available. You will receive a rabies vaccination certificate and a rabies tag from your veterinarian. This is your rabies registration. Keep your certificate in a safe place. It is your proof of rabies vaccination status.

Attach the tag to your pet's collar for identification and proof of vaccination. Your pet must wear the tag.

Citations for failure to vaccinate your pet, register your pet, or display your pet's rabies tag require a court appearance. Fines start at $75.00.

There are also rabies vaccines approved for ferrets, horses, swine, sheep, and cattle. While not required by law, they could save your pet's life.

Tips for Renting to Pet Owners

Pet owners can be some of the best - and worst - tenants a landlord encounters.   When pet owners go looking for a new home to lease or rent, they often encounter a litany of "no pets allowed".   Those landlords who don't allow pets often do so for legitimate reasons.  Those landlords who do allow animals on the property often find themselves with property damage, complaints from neighbors, and even legal repercussions for pets they don't even own.  PCAPS developed the following list from resources throughout the country and our own experiences for those landlords willing to allow pets.


  • Use a written agreement that spells out what type of pet may be kept at the property.  You don't necessarily need to name breeds of dogs; rather, state what species of animal you'll allow - dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, birds, snakes, etc.
  • Require the pet owner prove the animal has up-to-date vaccinations - particularly rabies for dogs and cats - and that the pets are properly registered with Peoria County.   All dogs and cats over 4 months of age must be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian and registered in Peoria County with a tag.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local animal control ordinances.  The City and County of Peoria Codes include requirements for humane care of animals, nuisance animals, multiple pet households, and more. 
  • Consider requiring that the dog or cat be spayed or neutered.  Neutered cats rarely spray urine as unaltered ones do.   Additionally, sterilization eliminates the possibility that one cat or dog turns into a dozen. 
  • Ask for references from previous landlords.   If they left the last property damaged or filthy, you'll have an indication of what to expect now.
  • Require that they comply with local ordinance by keeping their pet restrained to the property, not allowing their dogs to create a nuisance by barking, and by keeping their property picked up of feces and food.
  • Limit the number of pets allowed, and prohibit pets that don't belong to the tenant.  Problem animals often get passed around or hidden at other addresses when animal control violations occur.
  • Sometimes landlords will allow pets, but only if they remain outside.  Unfortunately, those are the pets that become nuisances or dangerous if they live their life on a chain or tether.  These dogs rarely receive enough attention and will often bark incessantly.  And, if tormented, over-stimulated, or frustrated by their confinement, they can become aggressive and present a hazard to the neighborhood.
  • Check with Peoria County Animal Protection Services to determine if the prospective tenants have animals with current rabies vaccination/registration, a history of animal control violations, or own dogs declared dangerous or vicious.
  • Be aware that for particular violations of the animal control ordinance and Illinois Animal Control Act, PCAPS may apply for administrative search warrants to enter property and remove animals in violation.   And the Animal Control Administrator may declare a dog dangerous for its behavior which may require signage designating a dangerous dog lives on the property.
  • Report all animal bites immediately to animal control or the police department.  If the animal is running loose, it's important to notify the authorities right away to prevent someone else being injured.  State and local laws require that every animal bite be reported promptly and investigated within 24 hours.  Be able to provide animal control or law enforcement your tenant's name and information in the event their pet bites or attacks someone. 


Questions?  Need help?  Call PCAPS 309-672-2440.

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