Preventing Rabies Exposure from Wild Animals

Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Dr. Indu Gupta, reminds Onondaga County residents to take precautions to protect themselves, their families, and their pets from rabies. Rabies is a deadly but preventable disease that is transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

There have already been positive cases of rabid animals reported this year in Onondaga County, both domestic as well as wild animals. Fortunately, human rabies is rare in the United States. Although there is no treatment for rabies, it is PREVENTABLE in both humans and pets.

Dr. Gupta reminds residents that “rabies is a fatal disease, so if you find wildlife on your property, do not touch it, even if it looks friendly. If you see an animal that looks sick or injured, do not try to approach it. You may contact a wildlife rehabilitator for their expert assistance.” It is very important to take the following precautions to prevent rabies in yourself and your pet:

  • Make sure rabies vaccinations are up-to-date for all your pets (dogs, cats, and ferrets). New York State Public Health Law requires that all puppies and kittens get their initial shot at three months of age, the first booster shot within 1 year after the initial shot, and then a booster shot every three years.  Ferrets must get a shot every year.
  • Maintain control of your pets. Keep cats and ferrets indoors and keep dogs under direct supervision.
  • Make sure to wear gloves before tending to your dog after a fight with a wild animal. Don’t forget to consult a veterinarian for further care.
  • Call your town or local municipality for assistance or guidance on how to remove stray or wild animals from your neighborhood.
  • Never try to approach nor pet a wild or unfamiliar animal, including stray cats.
  • Do not bring a wild animal, such as a fox, raccoon, woodchuck, or skunk, etc. into your home or treat them as pets.

 Teach Children to Stay Safe around Animals

  • Supervise children while interacting with animals.
  • Respect a dog’s space. Never approach a dog, especially one that is tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. Be cautious around strange dogs. Don’t pet a dog—even your own—without letting it see and sniff you first.

Protect your Family from Bats
About 5 percent of bats may carry rabies, so take steps to keep bats out of your house:

  • Bat-proof your home. Look for holes in places like the garage, attic, and basement and plug them with steel wool. Repair window screen holes with wire mesh and caulk any openings or cracks.
  • Trap any bat found in your home—do not let it escape outdoors. Before trapping the bat, protect yourself with gloves and a hat. Collect the bat in a container with a secure lid. For complete instructions and a video on how to trap a bat visit: net/health/env/rabies.html.
  • Once the bat is caught, call the Animal Disease Control Program at 315.435.3165 to bring the bat in for testing at our location at 4170 Route 31, Clay, NY 13041.
  • If you cannot trap the bat, call a local trapper for assistance.

Vaccinate Your Pets
Onondaga County Health Department is holding a safe and socially-distanced drive-thru rabies clinic on Thursday, July 1 at our Field Office located at 4170 Route 31 in Clay. Appointments are required and can be reserved at The shots are free for Onondaga County residents. A voluntary donation per family is appreciated. Additional rabies shot clinics will be offered throughout the year and will be announced on our website and Facebook page.

If You are Bitten by a Wild or Unfamiliar Animal
If you or a family member are bitten, or exposed to the saliva of a wild or unfamiliar animal, first wash any wounds with soap and water and seek medical treatment if necessary. Next, call the Animal Disease Control Program at 315.435.3165 for guidance regarding concern for rabies. More information on how to address animal bites and other frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be found at:

For more information about rabies prevention call 315.435.3165 or visit: