Background. The cost-benefit of raccoon rabies control strategies such as oral rabies vaccination (ORV) are under evaluation. As an initial quantification of the potential cost savings for a control program, the collection of selected rabies cost data was pilot tested for five counties in New York State (NYS) in a three-year period. Methods. Rabies costs reported to NYS from the study counties were computerized and linked to a human rabies exposure database. Consolidated costs by county and year were averaged and compared. Results. Reported rabies-associated costs for all rabies variants totalled $2.1 million, for human rabies postexposure prophylaxes (PEP) (90.9%), animal specimen preparation/shipment to laboratory (4.7%), and pet vaccination clinics (4.4%). The proportion that may be attributed to raccoon rabies control was 37% ($784,529). Average costs associated with the raccoon variant varied across counties from $440 to $1,885 per PEP, $14 to $44 per specimen, and $0.33 to $15 per pet vaccinated. Conclusion. Rabies costs vary widely by county in New York State, and were associated with human population size and methods used by counties to estimate costs. Rabies cost variability must be considered in developing estimates of possible ORV-related cost savings. Costs of PEPs and specimen preparation/shipments, as well as the costs of pet vaccination provided by this study may be valuable for development of more realistic scenarios in economic modelling of ORV costs versus benefits. © 2007 Recuenco et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.