What is Rabies?
Rabies is a preventable, but deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any infected human or mammal (e.g., raccoons, dogs, skunks, foxes).
The rabies virus is mainly found in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in an open wound, the eyes, the nose, or the mouth.
You can only become sick with rabies if you have come into contact with the saliva or brain tissue of an infected animal.
How can I Prevent Rabies?
Get Pets Vaccinated
- Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, and ferrets, and keep their vaccinations up-to-date.
- Visit the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s (AWLA) rabies and microchip clinic to get a $10 vaccine.
Stay Away from Wild Animals
- Stay away from wild, unknown, or aggressive animals.
- Do not handle dead animals.
- To request removal of a dead animal that could pose a risk of rabies, specifically raccoons, foxes, and bats, call AWLA at 703-931-9241.
Keep Pets Leashed
- Don’t let pets roam free. Keep them on your property or use a leash when away from home. Arlington County law requires pets to be leashed when away from home or outside of a County dog park.
Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water.
- Seek medical care. There is a series of vaccines you can get after the bite and before symptoms begin to prevent rabies. You can also get treatment for other possible infections that could be caused by the bite.
- If your pet is bitten, contact your veterinarian for medical care.
Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior
- If you or your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild or domestic animal, call AWLA.
- For human bites, also call the Arlington County Public Health Division at 703-228-5200, Option 1.
- If you see an animal acting strangely, do not go near it and report it to AWLA.
Where can I Learn More About Rabies?
Rabies Vaccination Exemption
You may request an exemption from rabies vaccination if your pet suffers from an underlying medical condition that is likely to result in a life-threatening condition in response to vaccination, and if an exemption will not risk public health and safety. For more information, talk to your veterinarian and download the Rabies Vaccination Exemption Form.