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Protect your family and your pets from this fatal disease.

Call your local County Health Department (External link) immediately if:

  • The rabid wildlife had contact with a person or pet.
  • Contact with a pet after it fought with a rabid animal
  • A bat was found in the living space of your home.

How a rabid animal might behave:

  • Unusually aggressive or tame, or seems dazed.
  • Excessive drooling, "foaming at the mouth."
  • Dragging the hind legs, mobility problems.

If you see the animal eating, drinking or climbing a tree, it's unlikely to be in the end stage of rabies.

What is rabies, and how is it spread?

Rabies is a deadly virus that infects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. It's most common in bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks. Although rabies is primarily transmitted by a bite, there is risk of infection if saliva or nerve tissue from a rabid animal gets into someone's eyes, nose, or mouth, or into an open wound.

If I've been exposed to a rabid animal, will I have to get 21 shots in the stomach?

No, not 21 shots, and not in the stomach. Now most shots are given in the shoulder muscle. You'll get one dose right away, followed by a few doses over the next two weeks.

If I see a nocturnal animal out during the day, does that mean it has rabies?

Nocturnal animals do come out during the day. Often. Especially when they have young to feed. This, alone, is not a sign of illness. Pet food, bird seed, and garbage can be powerful attractants. Weather changes also affect wildlife.

What should I do if I see an animal that appears to be rabid?

Stay away from any animal that's acting strangely, and let your neighbors know about its presence in the area. We do not recommend approaching it with a baseball bat or other club because that would require close contact. Sometimes your local police can come out and shoot it; however, even a sick animal will often wander off by the time outside help can get there. If it does have rabies and has wandered off, it will probably die within seven days, but it might have bitten other animals in the area, so it's a good idea to stay on guard.

How long will the rabies virus remain alive in the body of a dead animal?

That depends primarily on the outside temperature. The virus could die within a few hours in warm weather and could stay alive for months in freezing temperatures.

Could my dog or cat get rabies from a dead animal that had rabies?

Yes, through an open wound or by chewing on the carcass. Have your vet administer a booster shot within five days. You're not always going to know what your pet has been up to while outside, so the best protection for both your pet and your family is for you to keep your pet current with its rabies shots.

How do I safely dispose of a dead animal?

Use care when disposing of any dead animal. Wear gloves. Pick up the animal with a shovel. Then bury it (12 inches deep) or double-bag it and put it in the garbage. To kill the virus, sprinkle the ground and wash the shovel/gloves with a 10% solution of bleach in water (9 parts water, 1 part bleach).

More Information

Visit the NYS Department of Health Rabies website(External Link) for more helpful information.