The fox bit the child as she protected her dog from the rabid animal outside their Darbytown Road in eastern Henrico on Sunday, the child's mom said. Her dad shot the fox his a .22 caliber pistol to make sure it was dead and could be tested for rabies.
"The persons exposed to the fox have sought medical treatment," Henrico Police spokeswoman Lt. Linda Toney said. "A dog that resides on Darbytown Court may have been exposed to the fox and will be quarantined."
"She's very traumatized. She has a hard time sleeping," said the child's mother, Gina Capehart.
When Capehart moved to her Eastern Henrico home she expected to see wildlife in her back yard.
"We've seen skunks, deer; we've seen a coyote once, but it was just passing in the woods," she said.
Still, Capehart says they were caught off guard Sunday when a rabid, grey fox attacked her daughter.
"The fox basically walked up the sidewalk," said Capehart. "She ran and opened the screen door and the fox attacked her at the steps."
Capehart says the animal bit her daughter on the ankle. The little girl screamed and ran inside the house, and the fox followed.
"He came inside the screen porch where my husband was," Capehart recalled, "he ran under the sofa." "My husband grabbed it by all four legs and was able to kill it."
Capehart says the fox bit her husand's finger. Both were rushed to the hospital, and are now going through a number of rabies treatments.
"It was very scary," said Capehart. "We were lucky that she didn't fall, and that she wasn't hurt any worse."
Police used this opportunity to remind pet owners to keep pets’ rabies vaccinations current.
"Don't approach the animal," said Karen Gruszynski, Veternarian Epidemologist, Virginia Department of Health. "Admire wildlife from a distance."
Experts say it is not uncommon for wild animals like foxes, raccoon and skunks to be rabid, and they encourage the public to look for the warning signs.
"Sometimes going in circles, being out in the day light when they're nocturnal, or just coming and attacking you," said Gruszynski of signs that indicate an animal could be rabid."It's definitely not normal behavior," said Gruszynski. She says the number of rabid animal cases are down.
Last year, 250 cases were reported statewide from January to June, compared to 240 this year for the same time period. Still, Capehart says she'll keep her kids close and pay attention to her surroundings.
"Any of us could've been bitten, I would have rather it been me, you know," said Capehart. "Of course, it would've been easier than the children."
Experts says if a rabid animal tries to attack you, there's really no way to avoid them. But the quicker you get to the hospital, the quicker you can get treated with vaccination shots.
"If you do get attacked, make sure if the animal is being killed or shot to not do it in the head because we need the head for testing," said Gruszynski.
Neighbors can report "abnormal wildlife behavior" to Henrico Police at (804) 501-5000.