Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. During warm weather, and increased contact between wildlife and people and their pets, Washington County Public Health reminds all Washington County residents that the Public Health Department is prepared to provide guidance to anyone who may have been potentially exposed to rabies, a suspected rabid animal, or who has questions about the disease.

Rabies Vaccine For Pets

Pet owners need to know that New York State law requires all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies. If an unvaccinated pet or 1 that’s overdue on its vaccination comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must be destroyed or strictly quarantined for 6 months.

Booster Vaccine

It is essential that pet owners make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies, and, that their vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals that test positive for rabies, are required to have a booster vaccination, which must be given within 5 days of exposure.

Free Rabies Clinic

View 2019 Rabies Clinic Schedule

 For the convenience of local pet owners, Washington County Public Health continues to conduct free rabies clinics that routinely are held from March through November annually. There is no charge for the vaccination, however donations are accepted.

Keep the following in mind if you attend the Rabies Clinics:
*Bring proof of their previous vaccination with you!!! (Tags do not count as proof of vaccination, you need the paperwork.)
*Leave pets in your vehicle until you have registered your animals
*All pets must be on a leash or in a carrier.
*All Dogs and Cats should be vaccinated against rabies @ 3 months of age and re-vaccinated one year later, then every three years thereafter.
*Ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies @ 3 months of age and re-vaccinated yearly thereafter.

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Bat Rabies

Bat rabies continues to be of particular concern. In the past decade, 2 people have died in New York State from bat-associated rabies. In each case, family members recalled a bat in the home, but the possibility of exposure did not occur to them at the time of the incidents. Since 1990, 34 of 37 human rabies deaths among people who acquired the disease in the United States were as a result of bat rabies. While approximately 97% of all bats tested by the New York State Health Department are negative for rabies, New Yorkers must remain aware of the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat.

Note: If you find a bat in your home, do not release or discard it, immediately contact Washington County Public Health at 518-746-2400.

How to Catch a Bat

To view a video on how to safely catch a bat in your home, you can watch the video below or visit the New York Department of Health Rabies page for your video options.

Steps to Avoid Rabies Exposure

Washington County Public Health urges all residents to take these common sense steps to avoid exposure to rabies:
  • If you are bitten, scratched, or have contact with an animal you believe to be rabid, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, seek medical attention and report the incident to Washington County Public Health.
  • To avoid unnecessary rabies treatments, all potentially rabid animals that may have exposed someone should be confined and observed or tested for rabies. Contact Washington County Public Health for more information.
  • Although a bite from a rabid animal is the primary way for rabies to be transmitted, contact the Washington County Public Health Department regarding any contact with an animal that may be rabid.
  • Avoid contact with any wild animal. Be suspicious of wild animals that are unusually tame or aggressive, especially those that attack your pets. Do not attract raccoons or skunks to your yard by feeding them.
  • Avoid contact with any stray animals, especially cats.
  • Do not handle pets with bare hands for several hours after any involvement with a suspected rabid wild animal. Pet owners should keep a pair of thick gloves handy for just such situations, and should bathe pets after wildlife encounters whenever possible.
  • Do not handle dead or injured wild animals or domestic pets. If you must handle it, wear protective clothing, work gloves, and/or use a shovel to avoid skin contact.
  • Avoid contact with the saliva of any animal that may be rabid.
  • Do not release bats found in homes or cabins. Seek advice from Washington County Public Health about what to do with the bat. Immediately report any possible contact with bats, and such situations as bats in rooms or camp cabins with sleeping persons, unattended children, or individuals with mental impairment.

Who to Call With Questions

Washington County Public Health staff members that are educated on rabies are available to respond to rabies questions. Routine inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 518-746-2400 during business hours. After normal business hours, residents with urgent inquiries can call the above number and speak with an on-call Nurse.