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> Health EH Rabies Factsheet

Rabies Factsheet

Sick or Injured Wildlife

RacoonIf you or your pet encounters injured wildlife, and there is any chance that you or your pet has touched or otherwise had contact with the animal, your first call should be to TCHD. Call (607) 274-6688. Staff is on call 24/7.

If you are confident that there has been no contact and you want to help an injured animal, please call a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (listed below). They are trained to handle species that are potential rabies vectors, and licensed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Do not attempt to assist animals that appear to be sick or diseased. Please do not disturb young animals that are not injured.

Wildlife Rehabilitators in Tompkins County

Please Note: Placement at local rehabilitators is subject to space availability. Wild Things and Wishing Well are volunteer-run organizations that are not always able to accommodate an injured animal.

What is Wildlife Rehabilitation? Read about it on the Wild Things Sanctuary website.

Mandatory Pet Vaccination


Mandatory rabies vaccination of dogs, cats and ferrets by 4 months of age is your first line of defense against rabies.

• Owners must possess a current rabies vaccination certificate for each dog, cat or ferret.

• Regardless of age, your pet’s first inoculation is valid for just one (1) year. Subsequent vaccinations must be every three (3) years.

For pet vaccination clinic schedule, click here.

Credit- Bat Conservation InternationalBat Exclusion and Capture

  • How to exclude bats from buildings.*
      > Download PDF document.*
*Source: Bat Conservation International,
  • How to catch a bat (video). Watch below,

Or, watch the video on YouTube.

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Rabies—The Disease and Treatment

Rabies is a viral infection that is fatal to humans. The rabies virus is contained in the saliva and nervous tissue of rabid animals. Prevent rabies by avoiding exposure or by completing post-exposure treatment should an exposure occur. Human post-exposure treatment consists of a dose of rabies immune globulin administered as soon as possible (day 0). The first of five doses of rabies vaccine is given at the same time, with the remaining injections given on days 3, 7, 14, and 28 following the initial injection.

Human Exposure to Rabies

batThe majority of human rabies deaths in the United States result from bites or scratches from bats. Any bite or scratch by or mere skin contact with a bat or any bat in proximity to an unattended child or a sleeping or impaired person must be reported to the TCHD immediately for rabies risk analysis.

All mammal bites or scratches are possible exposures to the rabies virus. Parents should impress upon their children the necessity of reporting any animal contact to them. New York State Public Health Law requires the reporting of all mammal bites to the TCHD immediately, using the above emergency phone number if necessary.

Any mammal bite or scratch to a human should be immediately and thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and reported to the TCHD for rabies risk analysis.

Saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal entering an open wound or weeping rash or any mucous membrane (i.e. eyes, nostrils, mouth or genitals) is a possible rabies exposure and, after thorough washing, should be reported to the TCHD for risk analysis. Any rabies virus that gets on a cat or dog or any other surface from a rabid animal, will not be infectious after two (2) hours have passed. Avoid contact with or if necessary, carefully handle pets or contaminated objects with gloves on for this two (2) hour period to eliminate all risk. Contaminated surfaces should be washed with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach, 9 parts water).

When An Animal Bites a Human

If possible, a wild animal that has contact with a human or pet should be killed or captured without damage to the head. It will be sent to the New York State Rabies Laboratory for analysis and the need for rabies post-exposure treatment can be determined with certainty.

A biting cat, dog, ferret, or domestic livestock animal must be identified and the name, address, and phone number of the owner acquired and reported to the TCHD immediately.

It is known that if a biting cat, dog, ferret, horse, cow, sheep, or pig has rabies virus in its saliva when it bites, the animal will exhibit other overt rabies symptoms within 3-5 days. The TCHD will supervise a ten (10) day observation of each biting animal for rabies symptoms. Survival of this observation period by the animal rules out rabies risk for the bitten person. If a biting animal is unavailable for laboratory testing or ten (10) day observation, rabies risk can not be ruled out. Consult the TCHD immediately for rabies risk analysis.

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Pets Exposed to Rabies

If a vaccinated cat, dog or ferret has any contact with a bat, raccoon, fox, or skunk, rabid pet or a rabid domestic livestock animal it must receive a rabies booster shot within five (5) days.

An unvaccinated cat, dog or ferret that has any contact with a bat, raccoon, fox, skunk, rabid pet or rabid domestic livestock animal must be quarantined for (6) months at a facility approved by the TCHD (at the owners expense) or surrendered to the TCHD for immediate euthanasia and disposal. 

Mandatory Pet Vaccination

Harboring an unvaccinated cat or dog may result in a $250 dollar penalty. Barn cats and stray dogs must be captured and vaccinated or turned over to the SPCA.

Animals Acting Strangely

racoonIf any wild animal behaves in a strange manner, displays paralysis of the hind quarters or is unusually docile or excessively aggressive:

• LEAVE IT ALONE! Until a bite or salivary exposure occurs, there is no human concern: no agency is responsible for a wild animal.

• If a real threat to public safety exists, you can call your local police or the DEC for assistance; or you may contact a professional Nuisance Wildlife Control Person who will dispatch the animal for a fee.

• If you choose to destroy the animal yourself, use a method that will not damage the head or expose you to saliva or nervous tissue. DO NOT TOUCH the animal without gloves or a plastic bag.

Any dead animal which has caused no rabies risk by contacting a person or pet may be disposed of by burial under 24 inches of soil or by double plastic bag and regular trash hauler.

Additional Resources
NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) rabies factsheet
What Pet Owners Need to Know About Rabies Vaccinations in NYS (1 page PDF download from NYSDOH)
Monthly Rabies Reports for Tompkins County

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