Rabies is preventable in dogs, cats, ferrets and some livestock with a rabies vaccination. For most wild and exotic animals, there are no effective rabies vaccines available.

​Tips for Protecting Your Pets and Your Family

  • Walk your pet on a leash and never let it roam freely where wildlife may be present. Consider keeping pets indoors or in a fenced yard.
  • Never touch unfamiliar or wild animals. Enjoy wild animals from afar and never adopt them or bring them into your home, even if they are sick. Call animal control or a rescue group instead.
  • If a wild animal seems friendly, do not approach it. Rabid animals will act tame.
  • If your pet receives a bite wound from an unknown animal, contact the health department and your veterinarian about a rabies booster. Even if your pet has a rabies vaccination, a booster shot can help combat the disease.
  • Avoid direct contact with strays as they may not have been vaccinated against rabies and run a high risk of exposure to wild animals that may carry the disease.
  • Report strays to animal control.
  • Feed your pets indoors and make sure trash cans and pet foods are secured so that they do not attract wild animals. Leaving food outside attracts strays and wildlife.
  • Keep your pet’s rabies vaccine up to date and store their rabies vaccination certificate in an accessible location. Make sure they wear a rabies vaccination tag as well as a tag with their name, your address and your phone number.
  • Prevent wildlife from accessing your home. Prune tree branches that hang over the roof. Use screens on windows and cover small openings (chimneys/furnace ducts).

If You’ve Been Bitten

  • Because of improved rabies vaccination programs for pets and better treatment for people, rabies cases among huma​​​ns in the U.S. are rare.
  • If you’ve been bitten/wounded by a wild or domestic animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Cleansing will decrease the risk of infection. If the animal is someone else’s pet, ask the owner to provide proof of rabies vaccination.
  • Report the bite to Animal Control at (757) 385-4444. An animal control officer may contact you to file this report.
  • If you are bitten by a wild animal, try to capture it under a box, or at least identify it before it runs away. Don’t try to handle the animal. Call animal control to come get it.
  • If it’s a wild animal and must be killed, don’t damage the head. The brain will be needed for testing.
  • It’s critically important that you notify your family doctor immediately to determine if you will require an anti-rabies treatment.
  • If your pet bites a person or another animal, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  • If your pet is bitten by another known domestic animal, consult your veterinarian immediately and ask the owner to provide proof of rabies vaccination. If the other animal is not up to date on his rabies vaccine, report the incident to animal control to ensure that the animal is quarantined appropriately.

If Your Pet Bites Someone

  • Tell the person bitten to see a doctor immediately. Report the bite to the local health department. If your pet is a dog, cat, or ferret they will probably have you confine the animal and watch it closely for 10 days. Report any illness or unusual behavior to your local health department and veterinarian immediately.
  • Don’t let the animal stray, and don’t give the animal away. It must be available for observation by public health authorities.
  • Don’t kill your pet or allow it to be killed unless you have been instructed to do so by the public health authorities.
  • After the recommended observation period, have your pet vaccinated for rabies if it does not have a current rabies vaccination.
  • For more information, contact the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies page.
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