Veterinary Public Health

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Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 288-7060
Fax (213) 481-2375
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Rabies in Animals in Los Angeles County 
Domestic Animals

Rabies is very rare now in pets in Los Angeles County. The risk of rabies is low because of laws requiring rabies vaccination of pets, and because of control of stray animal populations by Animal Control services.


Years of key rabies cases in domestic animals in Los Angeles County:


2004 - Imported Dog. A stray 10 week old puppy in Thailand was rescued by a California resident. The puppy was ill before the flight to Los Angeles. After arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the puppy was taken to see local veterinarians. The puppy's owners drove north and stopped at two more veterinary clinics along the way. The puppy became increasingly aggressive. It was finally euthanized at a veterinary clinic in Santa Barbara, where it was diagnosed with rabies. An international investigation identified 12 people that may have had direct contact with the puppy's saliva while it was rabid.

1987 - Imported Cat. A stray kitten in Acapulco, Mexico was rescued by California resident. The kitten was attacked by a dog in Mexico and survived. While still in Mexico, it started to show symptoms of aggression. The kitten was flown from Mexico to Los Angeles. It died at a veterinary practice 4 days after it was imported, and rabies was confirmed. Three people in the US had been bitten by the rabid kitten. An additional 20 people (11 in the US, 9 in Mexico) had possible exposure to its saliva. All 23 were referred for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

1970s-Local Dogs. Four cases of rabies in dogs were identified throughout the 1970s. They were believed to have been caused by a live-virus vaccine in use at the time. When veterinarians began using only killed virus vaccines, dog rabies cases stopped being identified. .

1966 - Local Dog. Last naturally-occurring rabies case in a local dog. The dog was suspected of having caught rabies from a skunk.


Wild Animals


Since 1979, only 'bat variants' of rabies in Los Angeles County. Bat rabies variants are strains of the rabies virus that spread most easily between bats. However, they can also still be spread to other animals by bites. We used to have skunk rabies variants here (strains that spread most easily between skunks). There are other rabies variants in North America such as raccoon, fox and dog-coyote variants. These variants could eventually be transported here through relocation of animals. Therefore all bites from these wild animals are of potential rabies concern.


Years of key rabies cases in wild animals in Los Angeles County: 


2019 - Bats. Rabies has been documented in bats every year in our county since we started testing sick bats in 1961. Bats continue to be our  most important reservoir for rabies.  Bats are the most commonly diagnosed rabid animals in the state of California. However, most bats in nature do not have rabies (<1%).  Each red star in the map at right documents the location of a rabid bat found in our county over a 10 year period, between 2004-2013. Rabid bats have been found in both rural and urban areas in our county. Click here for our latest rabid bat map.

2014 - Skunk. In 2014, a skunk in Long Beach was confirmed to have rabies. The skunk was found to be infected with the Mexican Free-tailed Bat variant of rabies, not the skunk variant. As a result, the local epidemiology regarding rabies remained unchanged - bats are still the primary reservoir locally. However this case served as a stark reminder that wild animals can become infected with rabies from bats. Before 2014, the most recent rabid skunk was found in the Malibu area in 1979. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, rabid skunks were repeatedly found near or in Malibu. The outbreak peaked in 1964, when 59 rabid skunks were found near Malibu area in one year. A wildfire in the Santa Monica Mountains in 1979 may have killed the last rabies-infected skunk population.  Skunks continue to be the second-most commonly diagnosed rabid animal species in California.

1973- Raccoon. One rabid raccoon was identified that year. Most likely it had become infected by a local rabid skunk. Although rabies is rare in local raccoons, the "raccoon variant" of rabies may be brought over from the East Coast of the US. 

1964 - Foxes. Four rabid foxes were documented in our county that year. They were likely infected by rabid skunks. No other rabid foxes have been identified since then. However, foxes are the third-most-commonly rabid animal species in the state of California.

1946 - Coyote. Rabies has been rare in coyotes in our county. The most recent case detected was in 1946 - it was likely infected by a rabid dog at the time. Rabies is found on coyotes  sporadically along the Texas-Mexico border.

1944 - Opossum. One rabid opossum was detected in our county that year. Rabies is rare in opossums, however 11 rabid opossums were  detected in California over a 30-year period (1983-2012). One rabid opossum was found in nearby Orange County.

Last updated: August 5, 2019


Rabies in Animals in the United States (CDC data)