THE CITY OF NEW YORK
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE
Michael R. Bloomberg Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
2007 Veterinary Alert # 5
Information Regarding Animal Rabies Vaccination and Animal Bite Protocols
Dogs and cats required by NYC law to be vaccinated against rabies
Dogs and cats that have bitten a person must be observed for 10 days
Vaccinated dogs and cats bitten by a known or suspected rabid animal must
be observed for 45 days
Unvaccinated cats or dogs bitten by a known or suspected rabid animal must
be quarantined for 6 months or euthanized
Please share with your colleagues in Veterinary Medicine and your staff
July 3, 2007
Dear Veterinary Colleagues,
In light of the ongoing rabies epizootic on Staten Island, sporadic enzootic terrestrial rabies in
much of New York City, and increased incidence of animal bites in the warmer months,
veterinarians should be aware of the protocols for handling animals involved in bite incidents.
This alert reviews rabies vaccination requirements for dogs and cats, and protocols for animals
that have either bitten a person or been bitten by another animal.
Animal Rabies Vaccination
The New York City Health Code, Section 11.66 “Rabies: compulsory vaccination” mandates
vaccination of dogs and cats three months of age or older. The following information is
extracted from this section of the health code and the Compendium for Animal Rabies
Prevention and Control, 2007, both of which are available on our website, www.nyc.gov/health.
Go to Health Topics A-Z, Zoonotic and Vectorborne Diseases, under the Provider Resources
section on the right.
Dogs and cats owned by New York City residents must be actively immunized against rabies
with a vaccine approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The veterinarian
administering the vaccine or supervising the vaccination must issue a vaccination certificate to
the pet’s owner and report the vaccination within five days to New York City Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Veterinary Public Health Services (VPHS) using our
rabies blue card, form,VPHS-39 which can be obtained by contacting our office at 212-676-2120
or its equivalent found on National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV)
Form 51, www.nasphv.org. The vaccination certificate is valid for the duration of immunity and
owners must have their pets revaccinated upon expiration of the certificate. If the health of the
dog or cat would be adversely affected by vaccination, the veterinarian must provide the pet’s
owner with a signed and dated statement indicating this and also report this information to
Animal Bite Reporting and Protocols
The New York City Health Code, Section, 11.65 “Control of animals with diseases
communicable to humans” mandates rabies reporting and the handling of animals involved in a
biting incident. We have included a brief overview. The entire section of the Health Code can
be obtained upon request.
Reporting rabid animals - Any veterinarian, staff member, or animal owner who is aware of an
animal affected with or suspected of having rabies shall immediately report it to the DOHMH by
calling 212 676-2115. The animal should be confined in a manner that does not pose a threat to
the persons handling it, and surrendered to the DOHMH for rabies testing.
Handling animals that have been bitten by another animal, where the animal which
inflicted the bite or is the source of exposure is not available for observation or testing -
Any animal which has been bitten by, come in contact with, or kept together with a rabid animal
or presents with a bite wound of unknown origin must be reported to the DOHMH
• If it is a dog or cat that is more than three months of age and has a current rabies
vaccination using a vaccine approved by the USDA the animal should be re-
vaccinated and placed under observation at the owner’s home unless otherwise
specified by the DOHMH, for a period of 45 days.
• If it is a cat or dog that does not have a current rabies vaccination, it shall be kept
isolated, at owner’s expense, in a manner prescribed by the DOHMH in a veterinary
hospital or other place approved by the Department, under daily veterinary
supervision, for a period of six months, or shall be humanely destroyed.
Handling animals that have bitten humans or other animals- When a person or animal is
bitten by a dog, cat or other animal subject to rabies, or otherwise exposed to the rabies virus the
DOHMH should immediately be notified by telephone. See contact information below.
If it is an owned dog, cat or ferret the owner shall be required to confine and observe the animal
in their custody for a period of 10 days, during which period the DOHMH must be notified if the
animal dies, the animal exhibits symptoms of illness or distress, or the animal escapes. If the
animal appears healthy on the final day of the observation and confinement, the DOHMH must
be notified by phone and postcard. If no owner can be identified for a dog, cat, or ferret, the
animal will be held by Animal Care and Control (ACC) for the 10 day rabies observation period
or tested as specified by Department. The handling of rabies vector species other than dogs, cats
and ferrets will be considered on a case by case basis by the DOHMH (for further explanation,
please refer to the annexed chart).
If you have questions regarding the information provided in this alert, please call the DOHMH.
For questions regarding rabies exposure in humans call the Bureau of Communicable Disease at
212-788-9830 during regular business hours. For questions regarding animal bite reporting and
protocols, call VPHS’s Bite Unit at 212-676-2483 during regular business hours. To report bites,
or to report an animal suspected of having rabies, call VPHS’s Code Enforcement at 212-676-
2115 during regular business hours. For weekends or after hours, please direct call to the NYC
Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (212-764-7667) or 1-800-222-1222.
For information about rabies in New York City, please visit our website at www.nyc.gov/health
and look for the rabies link or animal bite link under health topics A through Z.
As always, we appreciate your continued collaboration with our efforts to monitor public
health issues in New York City.
Norma S. Torres
Norma S. Torres
Veterinary Public Health Services
Division of Environmental Health
Review of Protocols for Handling Animals Involved in Bite Incidents
What to do with a dog, cat, or ferret* that bites a person:
Owner available Owner observes dog, cat or ferret for 10 days Notify DOHMH Animal
o If dog, cat or ferret alive and healthy after 10 days, owner notifies the DOHMH
o If dog, cat or ferret develops neurological symptoms or dies during 10 day period,
immediately notify DOHMH at 212-676-2115 to arrange for rabies testing
Owner not found or animal stray Attempt to make arrangements to have dog, cat or ferret
captured for observation or testing with the DOHMH
o If animal not captured, have person bitten immediately contact their health care provider
or Communicable Diseases for treatment advice
What to do with a dog, cat, or ferret* bitten by another dog, cat or ferret* and biting animal is
available for observation or testing:
If biting dog, cat or ferret alive and healthy after 10 days, no need for further follow up for
If biting dog, cat or ferret develops neurological symptoms or dies during 10 day period,
immediately notify the DOHMH at 212-676-2115 to arrange for rabies testing
If biting dog, cat or ferret tests positive for rabies – see below
What to do with a dog, cat, or ferret* bitten by any animal that is rabid or is a rabies vector
species** and is unavailable for testing, or origin of bite wound not known – observation and
If dog, cat or ferret is current rabies vaccination Revaccinate Owner observes pet for 45
Dog, cat or ferret not current on rabies vaccination Revaccinate Pet observed at veterinary
facility (at owner’s expense) for 6 months
o Otherwise, dog, cat or ferret is euthanized
All other animals will be considered on a case by case basis by DOHMH.
To report animal bites, call 212-676-2483 during business hours
To contact VPHS regarding issues related to animal bites, please call 212-676-2115
To contact the Bureau of Communicable Disease regarding human exposures, call 212-788-9830
After business hours, please direct calls to the Poison Control at 212-764-7667.
*Please note, ferrets are illegal in NYC
**Rabies vector species include; raccoons, skunks, fox, coyotes and bats