Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. 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 Rockland County are required to be vaccinated against rabies. See Article XV of the Rockland County Sanitary Code for more information on Compulsory Anti-Rabies Vaccination.
The Rockland County Department of Health responsibilities are:
- The assessment of human and/or pet exposure to rabies.
- Rabies treatment authorization.
- Testing rabies suspect animals.
- The investigation of animal bites and quarantines.
The Department does not trap or capture wild or stray animals. Town police departments or licensed wildlife trappers (for a fee) may provide this service.
Each year, more than 300 animal bites are reported to the Rockland County Department of Health. Less than 10 percent of the animals submitted for testing were positive for rabies in each of the last 10 years.
Rabies can be prevented by:
- Avoiding contact with wildlife and stray animals.
- Bat-proofing your residence.
- Vaccinating your pets, (The County holds three Rabies Clinics per year).
- Keeping your dog on a leash.
- Keeping your cat inside.
- Not providing food or harborage for wildlife.
What to do if you are bitten
If you are bitten or scratched or have some other exposure 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. Please remember to have your healthcare provider or emergency room staff FAX a completed Animal Bite Report Form to (845-364-2025).
You can also call the Rockland County Department of Health at 845-364-2656 between 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. After hours, call 845-364-8600. Whether assistance is required from us in the form of a referral or action by the Department will depend upon the circumstances.
Post exposure treatment
Rabies post exposure treatment should be considered if:
- The animal was tested and is found to be rabid.
- The animal is not available for testing.
- The animal was untestable.
- 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.
Keep your pets immunized against rabies. Under New York State law, dogs, cats and ferrets must receive their first rabies vaccination by the time they are four months old. A second rabies shot must be given within one year of the first vaccination with additional booster shots given every one or three years after that, depending on the vaccine used. Owners who fail to get their pets vaccinated and keep the vaccinations up-to-date may be fined up to $2,000. In New York State and Rockland County, all cats, ferrets and dogs must receive rabies immunization. The Department sponsors rabies pet Vaccination Clinics to assist in having pets immunized. If you are planning on coming to the County's rabies clinic, be sure to have the Vaccination Release Form filled out to save time for yourself and our staff.
If you or your pet is exposed to a suspect rabid animal, try to keep that animal in sight until the police or a licensed registered trapper arrives. Additionally, before handling your pet, you should put on gloves.
A vaccinated pet that is exposed to rabies must receive a rabies booster dose within 5 days of the event to be protected. An unvaccinated or overdue pet exposed to rabies must be placed in a strict quarantine for 6 months or destroyed.
If your pet bites or scratches someone, confine your animal and contact the Department immediately. You should also contact the veterinarian for your pet's rabies vaccination records.
For more information, please call 845-364-2656.