Emerging zoonoses are a prominent global health threat. Human beliefs are central to drivers of emerging zoonoses, yet little is known about how people make inferences about risk in such scenarios. We present an inductive account of zoonosis risk perception, suggesting that beliefs about the range of animals able to transmit diseases to each other influence how people generalize risks to other animals and health behaviors. Consistent with our account, in Study 1, we find that participants who endorse higher likelihoods of cross-species disease transmission have stronger intentions to report animal bites. In Study 2, using real-world descriptions of Ebola virus from the WHO and CDC, we find that communications conveying a broader range of animals as susceptible to the virus increase intentions to report animal bites and decrease perceived safety of wild game meat. These results suggest that inductive reasoning principles may be harnessed to modulate zoonosis risk perception and combat emerging infectious diseases.