Rabies is a deadly virus that lives in the saliva and brain of infected animals.Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, but can also be spread by scratches and contact with an infected animal's saliva.. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. All dogs, cats and ferrets that are four (4) months of age or older and reside within Westchester County are required to be vaccinated against rabies.

You cannot be certain that an animal has rabies just by looking at it. Animals with rabies sometimes become aggressive, foam at the mouth, or have seizures. They may attack people, other animals or objects. Rabid animals may act confused or disoriented, show signs of paralysis, and make hoarse vocal sounds. Wild animals that act tame, friendly or allow you to get close to them may also have rabies.

Rabies Prevention

Rabies can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding contact with wildlife, stray animals or unknown pets.
  • Bat-proofing your home.
  • Vaccinating your pets (the County holds three FREE Rabies Clinics per year).
  • Keeping your dog on a leash and under direct supervision outdoors.
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Spay and neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  • Not providing food or shelter for wildlife.

What to do if you are Bitten:
If you are bitten, scratched or have some other exposure to a potentially rabid animal, immediately wash the area with warm soapy water and call your doctor or hospital for medical advice.

Report animal bites and other exposures (including scratches). All animal bites are required by NYS Public Health Law to be reported to the local or County health officer as soon as possible.

Call the Westchester County Health Department at (914) 813-5000 24 hour a day, 7 days a week for assistance. Have your healthcare provider or emergency room staff fax a completed bite report form to (914) 813-5160. The bite report form is available for download.

Rabies Post Exposure Treatment:
Rabies post exposure treatment will be considered if the animal:

  • is found to be rabid
  • is not available for testing
  • was untestable
  • had contact with a person where a bite or scratch or contamination of any open wound or mucous membrane (eye, nose, mouth) could not be ruled out. For bats, a bite may be difficult or impossible to detect.

Or, if the person cannot say for sure if they were not exposed because he or she:

  • is a young child
  • was asleep
  • was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • has a sensory or mental impairment. 


Other Resources

Animal Bite/Contact Forms (Rabies)