Rabies is a preventable viral disease in humans, dogs, cats and ferrets as well as some domestic livestock. It most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. All mammals are susceptible to rabies and it is nearly always fatal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) each year occur in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Raccoon rabies is present in the raccoon population in virtually every North Carolina county.


North Carolina law (G.S. 130A-185 (PDF)) requires that all owned dogs, cats, and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age and keep the animal's rabies vaccination status up-to-date throughout the animal's entire lifetime. This is the law, regardless of whether your pet lives inside or outside of your house. Learn more about local animal ordinances.

Keeping your pet up to date on its rabies vaccine serves two vital purposes: protection and identification.

Protection: The rabies vaccine is an important way to protect your animals. Wild animals are often found wandering in peoples' yards while searching for food, especially if the pet is fed outside. This can lead to wild animals attacking your pets and infecting them with the virus. Wild animals, such as bats, also find their way into homes, which can lead to the infection of strictly indoor pets.

Identification: Getting your pet vaccinated against rabies also helps identify your pets. Each time you vaccinate your pet against rabies, you receive a tag that should be worn by the animal at all times. This tag is proof that the animal has been vaccinated and has an owner, and the identification number on the tag can trace the pet back to its owner.

Vaccination Clinics

Find a veterinarian near you. Animals Services also hosts an annual rabies vaccine clinic where they offer the vaccine at a reduced cost.

View a list of local clinics offering rabies vaccines in the resource directory.


Rabies is preventable. Here are some tips to keep you and your pets safe and healthy:

  • Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets.
  • Keep cats and ferrets indoors and keep your dogs under direct supervision.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  • Do NOT leave food or uncovered garbage outside.
  • Leave all wildlife alone. Do not feed them. View the hazards of feeding wildlife (PDF).
  • Call Animal Protective Services at 910-253-1738 or email Animal Protective Services to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
  • Never approach or attempt to handle any friendly, injured, or sick wild animals.
  • Never approach or attempt to handle any injured or sick domestic animals.
  • Report strange-acting animals to Animal Services.
  • Never attempt to pet animals you do not know.
  • Never handle dead animals, if you come in contact with a dead animal, thoroughly wash contacted areas and consult your physician.
  • Do not release any animal in a trap or cage.

Additional Information & Resources

Remember: You do not have to be bitten to contract the virus.

The virus is shed through saliva. If some of an infected animal's saliva gets on a cut or scratch or into mucous membranes such as the nose or eyes, you could become infected.