Bats may not suck blood, but they can be far from harmless. Just ask Tom Owens.

Owens, 56, used an old shirt to catch a loose bat in his Farmington home Sept. 3. As he picked up the wad of cloth, the bat bit Owens through the shirt."I just felt a little prick on my finger," he said, explaining it wasn't your classic kind of bite.

Owens could see no blood or evidence of the bite, though.

"This could have been an incident I could have let go," he said.

Owens decided to play it safe. He kept the bat and called Davis County Animal Control. Sue Roden, an animal control officer, collected the bat and had it tested by the Utah State Health Department for rabies. It tested positive.

Owens' doctor persuaded him to start rabies treatments the night of the bite - two days before the disease was confirmed.

"My first mistake was when I tried to handle it (the bat)," Owens said. "Don't touch it. Call animal control."

Owens said the scary part was realizing that had he shrugged off the incident he could have contracted rabies some six to 12 months later and likely would have died.

"The public should really know more about this," Owens said.

Owens has made his home for the past five years in the old Heidelberg Restaurant, a historic castlelike building, but this was the first bat he has encountered.

He also said the rabies treatments are not as painful as he'd been led to believe.

"It's not pleasant but not as bad as it used to be."

Owens was also very impressed with the quick response from county and state officials. Despite it being the Labor Day weekend, they wouldn't rest until they had an answer on the rabies presence.

"I was pretty impressed with these public servants," he said.

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Additional Information

Use common sense to avoid contracting rabies

- Never approach or touch any wild animal that acts sick or behaves in an unnatural fashion.

- Never pick up or try to capture, remove or handle bats - dead or alive.

- Vaccinate all domestic cats and dogs annually.

- Notify your local animal control office immediately if a domestic animal brings a bat home.

- Immediately seek medical attention if you are bitten by a bat. Do not destroy the bat. Animal Control will need it for testing.

- Exercise precaution when working in enclosed areas, such as attics, where there may be bat feces.

Davis County Animal Control