What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that can affect all mammals, including humans. The virus attacks the central nervous system and can be secreted in saliva. Because rabies affects people as well as animals, control of this disease has become a top priority for the Bureau of Animal Health. With the cooperation of the Department of Public Health and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, every angle of potential rabies exposures gets covered in order to prevent further rabies infections. For more information, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

How You Can Help

Keep Your Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets Current

All dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be currently vaccinated against rabies. A dog license will not be issued unless your dog has a current rabies vaccination. Your pet's first shot will be good for one year. You may get the booster shot 9-12 months later to receive a vaccination good for three years. However, if you let the first shot expire by even one day the next shot will only be good for another year. You must show the veterinarian proof (a rabies certificate) that the shot is current in order to receive the three-year booster.

Once your pet has received the three-year booster, he may receive three-year boosters for the rest of his life. If you let a three-year booster shot expire, then the following three-year booster will only be considered to be current 30 days after it has been given. Contact your veterinarian for further information.

Protect Yourself and Your Pet From Rabies

  • Never approach a wild animal or stray pet, even if the animal looks friendly or hurt. Be careful around any animal that seems confused, aggressive, or unusually slow.
  • Table scraps and pet foods attract wild animals. Feed your pets indoors and make sure outdoor garbage cans are closed tightly.
  • Rabies is caused by a virus found in saliva.
  • Make sure your pets have rabies shots. Keeping pets' rabies shots up to date protects you and your pets.
  • Don't allow pets to roam. They can get rabies from other animals.
  • Foaming at the mouth does not always mean an animal has rabies.
  • Wild animals are naturally afraid of humans. An animal acting friendly may be sick.
  • Don't try to handle wild animals. Never keep wild animals as pets.

About Our Wildlife

Unknown to most Watertown residents are the numerous amounts of wildlife residing in our town. Among them are skunks, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and bats, all of which may be infected with rabies. Except for the common squirrel, all of these animals are nocturnal. This means that they sleep during the day and come out to hunt for food at night. Remember, wildlife resided here before us. Some wildlife is coming back in full force because of the cleaning of the green areas in our town where they have more habitat and food.