Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including humans. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut. In wild and domestic animals, the rabies virus affects the part of the brain that regulates aggression, causing the animal to attack without fear or provocation, or they become very disoriented and lethargic. In some instances, animals (dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock included) carrying the rabies virus will not show any unusual behavioral warning signs. Rabies in humans can be fatal without prompt post-exposure treatment. This is called Post Exposure Prophylaxis or PEP.
Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are much more likely to carry rabies, however, dogs, livestock including cows, horses, goats, or any warm-blooded animal can carry rabies and pass it to humans. People should stay away from all wild and stray animals. Contact the animal control officer or your local police department, for your municipality. Never touch or try to capture feral strays or wild animals yourself.
If you are bitten or scratched by a domestic or wild animal, clean the wound immediately with soap and water, seek immediate medical attention and report the bite to the Division of Health at (973) 579-0370. If your pet is bitten by wildlife or any other potentially rabid animal, call your veterinarian immediately to get medical attention and a rabies booster vaccination for your pet, and report the incident to the Division of Health.
The Division of Health is available during nights, weekends and holidays through the Sheriff's Communications Dispatch at (973) 579-0888.
Please fill out the Animal Bite Form or (Printable PDF) for ALL animal bite exposures; dogs, cats, ferrets, exotic pets, livestock (i.e. cows, pigs, horses, sheep, goats), and wildlife. If you are bitten by an insect, reptile, or bird, it does not need to be reported to the health department, but you should seek medical attention in these cases.
Sussex County Rabies Clinic Schedule
You can protect your pet from rabies by getting them the rabies vaccine and making sure all rabies vaccinations are up-to-date. This also applies to indoor pets as they can be exposed to displaced bats, or they can get out and come into contact with wildlife. Rabies clinics are offered at various municipalities throughout the year. Other options for getting rabies vaccinations for your pets include a veterinary hospital or local pet supply store.
Note: Vaccinate only healthy cats and dogs at clinics. Ferrets, rabbits, wolf-hybrids, and other animals will NOT be vaccinated at clinics. Contact your veterinarian for instructions on vaccination of these animals.
Information from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH)
For more information about rabies exposures and guidelines, click on the following link, Rabies Web Page on the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) website.
For Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about rabies go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Educational Materials" heading, then "Frequently Asked Questions".
For information of symptoms of rabies in people and much more go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Educational Materials" heading, then "Rabies Background and Technical Information".
Information for New Jersey Health Professionals
NJDOH Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Guide: For the most current guidance on animal exposures and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP, aka rabies shots) protocol, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Disease Prevention" heading, then "New Jersey Guide to Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis".
NJDOH Communicable Disease Service, Infectious Zoonotic Disease Program
Information for Healthcare Professionals (CDC guidance)
Patient history is important to identify a possible exposure to rabies and other encephalitides; however, rabies should never be ruled out based solely on the absence of a definite exposure history.
Information for Veterinarians, Animal Control Officers (ACO), Global Travelers, Others
NJDOH Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) guide:
For the most current guidance on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) information, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the “Disease Prevention” heading, then “Rabies Pre-Exposure Immunization”. There you will find the most current guide for PEP protocol.
"New Jersey veterinarians, veterinary technicians, students enrolled in veterinary or veterinary technician school, animal control officers, animal shelter workers, persons who will be preparing rabies specimens, persons working closely with or handling wildlife (including bats), and persons handling unvaccinated cats and dogs are classified in the frequent-risk category and they are recommended to receive rabies pre-exposure immunization.
Certain persons travelling to high risk destinations around the world may also be recommended to receive rabies pre-exposure immunization before travel."
CDC Guidance for Information for Veterinarians
This link offers CDC guidance for veterinarians, including a current copy of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, and veterinarian frequently asked questions.
NJDOH Guidelines on Rabies for Veterinarians, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the “Disease Prevention” heading, then "Procedures for Veterinarians Handling Rabid Animals". This document offers updated information including remains of animals sent for testing. Some of this information also applies to ACOs.
Quarantine, Observation & Confinement Guidelines for Veterinarians and ACOs
For information on topics including domestic animal quarantines based on vaccination status, observation periods, exposure categories and guidelines, confinement protocol, rabies advisory notice, serology, testing, and more, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Disease Prevention" heading, then click on the "Management of Domestic Animal Rabies Exposures" link.
What You Should Know About Bats
Topics in this document include: Which types of bats enter my home?, Bat-Proofing the interior of the home, How to remove a bat flying inside your house?, What are some important facts about bats? And more… To access this document, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Educational Materials" heading, then "What You Should Know About Bats".
Bats and Rabies
This link offers information from the CDC on bats, including rabies, how to handle encounters with bats, and tips on how to "bat-proof" your home.
Bats are a protected species, this link to the NJDEP website, 'Bats in Buildings' , provides valuable information on regulations, removal, and much more… On the same webpage you will find a link labeled, “Nuisance Wildlife Control Guidelines for Bats”. Please refer to that for bat “safe dates” for bat exclusion from your home or building.
For the most current NJDOH guidelines on the proper handling of bat exposures, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the “Disease Prevention” heading, then “New Jersey Guide to Proper Handling of Bat Exposures”. This document offers bat rabies statistics specific to New Jersey, exposure management, and much more…
Additional Information about Rabies, Animal Bites, and Pets
Questions & Answers from the CDC
Commonly asked questions and answers about rabies and pets, human rabies, wild animals, and rabies risks when traveling.
If you have no health insurance or are under insured, and need the rabies shots, click here: Program for Uninsured and Underinsured Patients
If you are looking for statistics on rabies in New Jersey, click on this link:
New Jersey Animal Rabies Cases by County and Species
More information on rabies can be found at the World Health Organization (WHO) website.
Key Facts on Rabies from the World Health Organization
More important topics on rabies-types, symptoms, prevention and more...
Just for Kids
In the United States, rabies is much more common in wild animals than in pets like cats or dogs. This is because of a multi-faceted approach on all governmental levels to get pets vaccinated for rabies, such as free rabies clinics and licensure. This is why your pet must be current on their rabies vaccine to get licensed.
Learn How to Avoid Dog Bites:
Learn how to avoid dog bites by understanding what your cat or dog is telling you through their body language. Just because animals don’t speak our language, they still communicate, with each other and humans. Learn how to read the signs your dog is giving you through their communication and behavior .
Teachers and Parents – See this guide from the World Health Organization (WHO) on (5) tips to prevent dog bites for kids, or use these flash cards or poster in your home or classroom.
Licensing & Rabies Vaccines:
When a new puppy or kitten has been vaccinated for rabies for the first time, typically between 3 and 6 months, it still takes 28 days for them to develop an immunity. It is important to continue to supervise them while in a yard or outside, where they could still come in contact with other animals including wildlife and strays. For more information on immunizing your pets, speak to your veterinarian.
For more information about vaccine duration and licensing, go to the NJDOH (website) Rabies Web Page and scroll to the "Planning" heading, then "Policies & Guidelines for Animal Rabies Vaccination" and "Duration of Immunity".
Microchipping Your Pet:
Other safety tips for your pets include getting them microchipped. If they get out, slip off a leash, or get lost, and have a microchip, they have a much higher chance of being returned to you. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping.
Also, if you move, don’t forget to notify the microchip company of your new address, phone number, email!
If you choose to, you can enter the contact information for you and your pet on the Pet Chip Registry . It links your contact info to the microchip affiliated with your pet in a National Database. Why is this important? If you live in New Jersey and travel with your pet, for example, to a campground in Wyoming, and your pet gets lost, you will have a much higher percentage of getting your pet back then if you did not have him/her microchipped and registered.
Reporting Animal Cruelty:
If you suspect an animal is being mistreated physically, or not being provided adequate food, shelter, and water, please see this link from the NJDOH for additional information
Additional Information Regarding Animal Cruelty Complaints
Animal cruelty complaints are not investigated by the Animal Control Officer (ACO). The ACO may already be aware of an investigation, but they are not the point of contact for initiating a complaint.
Every municipality has an assigned HLEO (Humane Law Enforcement Officer) within their police department. So you have (2) options for making complaints about suspect cruelty.
- *Call the police department of the municipality where the animal resides.
- Call the Sussex County Prosecutor office @ 973-383-1570
*You will most likely have to leave a message. The prosecutor can then determine which municipality to direct the complaint to. This option may take longer to get immediate results.
For Complaints About an ACO or Animal Facility
ACO or animal facility complaints, those violating NJDOH regulations, the complainant should call the NJDOH main #: 609-826-4872 and state their reason for the call.