The 1999 Rabies Control Act (HB 1185)
Chapter 243 of the 1999 Session Laws
The North Dakota Department of Health proposed a complete revision of the Rabies
Control Act (House Bill No. 1185; chapter 243 of the 1999 Session Laws), which was passed
by the Legislative Assembly on March 29, 1999.
The New Rabies Law
The most significant changes in the Rabies Control Act are:
- First, the State Health Officer (or the State Health Officers designee) is given discretion
to seize, quarantine, impound or test (after humanely killing) a wild mammal
if there is probable cause to believe that the animal has bitten, scratched or otherwise
exposed a person to rabies. This allows the State Health Officer to consider the
recommendations of relevant experts, as well as the views of the bite victim and the bite
victims physician, in deciding what action is reasonable and necessary to protect
the public health.
- Second, the Department of Health is required to obtain an administrative search warrant
from a judge in any case in which it seeks to seize, quarantine, impound or examine an
animal, unless there is an emergency requiring immediate action. An emergency would
be considered to exist if, for example, (1) an animal is running loose or not securely
confined; (2) the animal is acting in a vicious manner that is threatening people or other
animals; or (3) the animal is exhibiting signs of rabies. Placing this requirement in the
Rabies Control Act will give greater assurance to animal owners and greater direction to
Department of Health, game wardens and law enforcement officers seeking to seize an animal
located on private property.
- Third, the class of animals not subject to routine testing for rabies is
broadened from domestic dogs and cats to include domestic livestock. Under the 1999 Rabies
Control Act, (unless there is some symptom of illness) only an unvaccinated wild mammal
(one not vaccinated with an approved vaccine) would be potentially subject to humane
killing and testing for rabies. Generally, domestic dogs, cats and livestock would be
subject only to quarantine or impoundment for a specified time. Such an animals
brain may be examined for rabies only if the animal shows symptoms indicating that it
might be rabid.
- Fourth, the 1999 rabies law confirms the authority of a local government to enforce this
Act or its own rabies control ordinance.
- Fifth, the Rabies Control Act creates a new chapter of the Century Code consisting of 10
sections that separately enumerate each significant element of the Rabies Control Act.
This will give greater guidance for application of the Act to the Department of Health,
other state and local agencies, and to animal owners and the general public.
To find the Rabies Control Act of 1999, go to