Animal Bites and Rabies

Rabies: Protect your pets, yourself, and your community

Rabies exists throughout San Mateo County and is a fatal disease for animals and for people if you don’t get medical attention right away. There is no cure for rabies once your pets are exposed but it can be prevented by making sure your pets are all vaccinated.

The best way to protect your furry family and your community is to get your cats and dogs vaccinated for rabies. And at the same time, be sure to get your pets licensed to help them return home if they get lost.

Vaccination is affordable and well worth it. Check out our list of local, low-cost vaccination clinics

If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, get medical attention right away.

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Rabies FAQ

Vaccination

Why should I vaccinate my dog or cat?

Rabies is in San Mateo County and infects animals every year. Vaccinating your pet against rabies is the only way to protect them from it. It is 100% fatal in dogs and cats, and is almost always fatal in people if not treated immediately. Because of the drought, many wild animals are coming closer than ever to houses looking for water, which puts everyone, including your pets, at an even greater risk.

But rabies is really rare, right?

Rabies is in San Mateo County and not as rare as you might think. In 2014, 178 rabid animals were identified in California, including 150 bats, 24 skunks, 2 cats, 1 dog and 1 fox. Because of the drought, many wild animals are coming closer to houses looking for water, which puts everyone, including your pets, at an even greater risk.

Why should I vaccinate my cat?  He or she never goes outside.

Even indoor cats can get out. It only takes a minute for a cat to come into contact with another animal and potentially get rabies. Bats, the animal most likely to carry rabies, can also fly into houses. Rabid bats tend to act irrationally before dying and tend to go places they would avoid when healthy—like into homes and near people.

Where can I get my pet vaccinated?

Every vet offers vaccination. Click here for a list of low-cost vaccination clinics

Licensing

Why should I license my dog or cat?

Licensing is the only way to make sure your pet is returned if he or she gets lost. If a pet ends up at an animal shelter and  cannot be identified, it will be held for four days and then be sent to a rescue organization, put up for adoption or euthanized.

If my dog or cat is already microchipped, what’s the point of licensing?

If your pet gets lost, it may end up at an animal care facility that doesn’t have the appropriate microchip scanner. The facility will have no way of knowing your pet belongs to you. And since you have to renew your pet’s license, your contact information on file with your pet’s license may be more current than your contact information on file from when your pet was microchipped.

Where does the money I pay to license go?

The money collected from pet owners for licensing their pets helps offset the cost of animal control services in your city and helps prevent pet overpopulation through spaying and neutering.

Where can I license my pet?

You have three convenient options:

  1. License online: PetData.com
  2. License in person—bring your rabies vaccination certification to:

Peninsula Humane Society
12 Airport Boulevard, San Mateo
(650) 340-8200  

Lantos Center for Compassion
1450 Rollins Road, Burlingame
(650) 340-8200  

San Mateo County Health System
225 37th Avenue, Room 11, San Mateo
(650) 573-3726

  1. License by mail—Complete application at smchealth.org/AnimalLicense and send, with rabies vaccination certificate, to:
    San Mateo County Animal Licensing
    c/o Pet Data Inc.
    P.O. Box 141929
    Irving, TX 75014

Rabies

What is rabies?
Rabies is a preventable viral disease that affects the central nervous system in mammals. Rabies is passed through the saliva of infected animals, most frequently through a bite..

Where does rabies exist?
Rabies is found on all continents except Antarctica. In developing countries, rabid dogs are a major problem and tens of thousands of people die from rabies each year. In San Mateo County, dogs, cats, horses, and bats have been infected with rabies.

How do I protect myself and my family from rabies?
Rabies deaths in people are preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Steps you can take to prevent rabies:

  1. Be a responsible pet owner. Keep your cats and dogs up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Maintain control of your pets by keeping them under direct supervision to reduce their exposure to wildlife. License your pets to ensure they can be returned to you if they get out. Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated. Call Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA at 650-340-8200 to remove all stray or dead animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
  2. Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Do not handle or feed wild animals.  Place litter in closed garbage cans. Never bring wild animals into your home. Teach your children to never handle unfamiliar domestic or wild animals even if they appear friendly. Prevent bats from entering areas where they may come in contact with people or pets by securing all areas of access. When traveling abroad, avoid contact with animals (especially dogs) in developing countries where rabies is very common.

How do I protect my pet from rabies?
Vaccinating your pet is the best way to prevent exposure.

How is rabies spread and how does a person get rabies?
Rabies is a virus that is usually passed to humans through the bite of a rabid animal. Occasionally, rabies can be transmitted if the saliva of an infected animal gets into a fresh scratch, break in the skin or comes in contact with a human's eyes, mouth or nose.

Bats are the most common carriers of rabies in California. Because most bats’ teeth are extremely small and needle-thin, people can be bitten in their sleep and not have any visible wound or mark. For this reason, if you find a bat in your home, you should seek medical advice and have the bat tested, if possible, even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. To have the bat captured/removed, call the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA at 650-340-8200.

Additional Information and Useful Links