How Can I Prevent Being Exposed to Rabies?

Animals:  Be a responsible pet owner

  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep. Michigan law requires that dogs and ferrets must be vaccinated for rabies and it is recommended that all cats and any domestic livestock in contact with the public be vaccinated if a licensed vaccine exists.
  • Vaccination is important for keeping your pet from getting rabies, but it also provides a barrier of protection for you if a wild animal bites your pet.
  • There is no post-exposure treatment available for animals. As a result, unvaccinated pets and domestic animals that are exposed to a potential rabies carrier may be required to be euthanized.
  • Do not keep wild animals or exotic animals as pets. Many wild and exotic species make poor pets.  No rabies vaccine is licensed for use in these species. It is illegal to keep wild animals as pets, and wild animals not be kept except by persons who possess Wildlife Rehabilitation permits.
  • Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals that may be carrying rabies. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance immediately.
  • Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood. Strays may be unvaccinated and could be infected with rabies.
  • Spay or neuter you pets to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

People:  Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals

  • In Michigan, rabies most commonly occurs in bats, therefore, prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, or other similar settings where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Do not approach, handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with food, open garbage cans or litter. Tightly cap garbage cans. Feed pets indoors.
  • Do not attempt to capture or feed feral cats.  Unlike stray domesticated cats, feral cats are born in the wild and should be treated as wild animals.
  • NEVER adopt wild animals or bring them into your house. Do not try to nurse unfamiliar sick animals to health. Call animal control for assistance in these situations.
  • Teach children NEVER to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone" is a good principle for children to learn.
  • Seek medical attention if bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal.
  • Animal bites should be reported to the local health department.
  • Rabies Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is highly effective in preventing rabies in people possibly exposed to a rabid animal, if administered before symptoms develop.