Westchester Offers Free Rabies Vaccinations in Cortlandt

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Last October a Calico cat in Ossining was confirmed to have rabies.
Last October a Calico cat in Ossining was confirmed to have rabies.

Last year there were numerous reports of rabid animals being caught in Westchester County. To help prevent your pet from being infected, free rabies vaccinations will be available by appointment for dogs and cats owned by Westchester County residents on Saturday, March 17 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Cortlandt Animal Hospital, 1 Dogwood Road in Cortlandt Manor.

For an appointment, call Cortlandt Animal Hospital at 914-737-3608.

Advanced appointments are required. Cats must be brought in carriers and dogs must be on a leash.  Aggressive dogs must be muzzled.

“Rabies is a fatal disease that is spread through the bite or saliva of infected animals” said Westchester County Health Commissioner, Dr. Sherlita Amler.  “Vaccinating your pet against rabies will protect your pet and your family in case your pet has contact with a rabid or potentially rabid animal.” 

Under New York State law, dogs and cats must receive their first rabies vaccine no later than four months after birth. A second rabies shot must be given within one year of the first vaccine, 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.

Rabies is a fatal disease that is spread through the bite or saliva of infected animals.  Those animals most commonly infected are raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.  However, domestic animals such as cats and dogs are also at risk because they can easily contract rabies from wild or stray animals.

A pet that is up-to-date with its rabies vaccinations would only need to get a booster dose of vaccine within five days of the pet’s exposure to a known or suspect rabid animal.  Animals not up-to-date with rabies vaccinations would need to be quarantined or potentially euthanized following contact with a rabid or suspect-rabid animal.

A change in an animal’s behavior is often the first sign of rabies.  A rabid animal may become either abnormally aggressive or unusually tame.  It may lose fear of people and become docile or it may become particularly excited and irritable.  Staggering, spitting and frothing at the mouth are sometimes noted in infected animals.  Adults should encourage children to avoid touching unfamiliar animals and to immediately tell an adult if they have been bitten or scratched by an animal.

All animal bites or contacts with animals suspected of having rabies must be reported to the Westchester County Health Department at 914-813-5000.  After hours, callers should follow instructions in the recorded message for reporting public health emergencies 24 hours a day.

To learn more about rabies and its prevention, residents can also call the Rabies Hotline at 914-813-5010 to hear a taped message or visit the Health Department website at www.westchestergov.com/health.

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