Rabies is a fatal virus that may affect animals and people. It is a requirement in North Carolina that all cats, dogs and ferrets over 4 months of age be vaccinated against rabies. It is also a requirement that these animals wear a valid rabies tag at all times. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in a fine or fee.

Vaccinations are typically available from any licensed veterinarian. Please check this page to see more information about low-cost rabies clinics that may be offered by Orange County, NC.

Should your pet come in contact with an animal that might be considered a rabies carrier, contact Animal Control immediately at 919-942-PETS (7387). In the event of contact is after regular business hours, call 911.

Cat Inside Tower

NC Rabies Results And Testing

Animals are only submitted for testing if there’s good reason to think that there could have been a rabies exposure. This means that Animal Services could impound but not submit for testing a sick fox even if this animal had neurological signs consistent with rabies. Why? Because there has not been any contact with a person or domestic animal and thus there is no need to decide whether a person needs shots (aka post-exposure prophylaxis) or a dog or cat needs a rabies booster shot or isolation for the rabies incubation period.  

Wild animals that can carry rabies and that have had contact with a dog or a cat are not always tested. Generally speaking, they are only tested if the dog or cat with which they had contact does not have a documented rabies vaccination history. In these situations, the test results are used to decide whether the dog or cat needs to be isolated for the rabies incubation period.  On the other hand, a wild animal that can carry rabies is not submitted for testing if the dog or cat with which it had contact has a documented history of rabies vaccinations. The reason is that it is much less expensive for the dog or cat to get a rabies booster shot than it is to perform a fluorescent antibody test on the animal to determine if it could have been shedding rabies when it had contact with the dog or the cat.

Test results do not tell us very much about the natural occurrence of rabies in a locale or larger area. This is so because only wild animals that have had contact with a person or domestic animal are considered for testing since the purpose of testing is to decide if post-exposure measures need to be taken for the health of the public and other domestic animals 

The observations above are applicable to the table example below (provided by NC Department of Health and Human Services):
NC Rabies Results January to August 2020

Did You Know?...

  • Rabies virus can be transmitted through secondary saliva exposure when handling an animal, so do not touch your pet without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to rabies. 
  • If a rabies suspect animal is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal. Keep visual contact with the animal until an Animal Control Officer arrives. 
  • Bats are beneficial to our ecosystem and they deserve our respect. Some types of bats in North Carolina are considered federally endangered or federally threatened. However, bats can carry rabies so it is important for humans to keep their distance. A host species of rabies in our own region and others is the bat. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in our country in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area. Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your home even if there is no evidence of a bite.