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Petitioning National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and 1 other

We urge state public health officials and lawmakers to waive rabies shots for companion animals at risk of adverse reaction when in the care of a licensed veterinarian.

Veterinary medical authorities agree that there is no medical necessity for "booster" rabies shots.

Rabies is implicated in a wide range of negative acute and chronic health conditions as well as death in dogs and cats.

The health status and age of our companion animals increases the risk of adverse reaction or death from repeat rabies vaccinations.

According to vaccine manufacturers' labels, unless a dog or cat is healthy it should not be vaccinated.

Laws that mandate redundant rabies shots go against science and violate consumer protection laws, forcing a pet owner to buy a product that has no medical benefit.

These laws must be reformed.

The position of the American Animal Hospital Association is: “Every effort should be made to change laws that require vaccination with this rabies product more often than every three years since annual vaccinations cannot be shown to increase efficacy and it is known to increase adverse events.” (Paul, Michael, Report of the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force: 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, AAHA Foundation, March 2003.)

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which represents more than 82,000 vets across the U.S., has revised its policy on rabies vaccination to include provision for a rabies vaccination waiver: 

“… AVMA recognizes some animals might require a waiver from rabies vaccination because the vaccination poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of the individual animal, or a waiver might be necessary for research purposes. If adequate steps can be taken to minimize the chance of exposure to rabies virus, the AVMA recommends that such animals be granted a waiver from mandatory rabies vaccination, upon recommendation of a licensed veterinarian and with the concurrence of the appropriate public health authorities.”

Currently, 18 states grant rabies medical exemption for sick and senior pets. There have been no rabies outbreaks in these areas. There have been no negative unintended consequences. Yet 35 states resist adopting this humane and medically-sound practice.

This leaves responsible pet owners in those jurisdictions with an unacceptable choice.

Sophie's Choice

Rabies vaccinations are implicated in many acute and chronic health conditions that affect the health and quality of life of our companion animals. According to rabies manufacturer's label directions, it is intended for use "in healthy animals only." Yet current rabies laws in all but a few United States make no allowance for health status, age or proximity of exposure; they mandate rabies shots annually or three-yearly regardless of the risks.

Rabies laws are not set in stone by state public health veterinarians. Every county, city, town and village in America can require stricter rabies vaccination laws than state guidelines. Indeed, most communities require proof of current rabies vaccinations in order to issue pet licenses. Without proof of current rabies vaccination:

  • Services may be restricted or refused at veterinarian offices, emergency clinics, boarding facilities and groomers.

  • Many airline carriers and trains may refuse to travel your pet with or without you.

  • Animal Control has a duty to seize your dog or cat and “handle and dispose of it of according to local laws.”

In a community with a benign animal control enforcement, you can recover your animal, get the rabies shot and pay a fine. In a less progressive area, your dog can be held for a period of time, then destroyed. You still pay the fine.

This puts the responsible pet owner whose animal may be old, with no chance of exposure to rabies and/or with health issues, in an untenable position: vaccinate the animal at the risk of its health or break the law and risk its life.

Our Recommendation

Research by highly recognized, expert veterinary immunologists shows that the minimum duration of immunity following vaccination against rabies is seven years and most likely for the life of the animal.

Vaccinology experts concur that any pet that has had at least two rabies shots in its lifetime is at minimal risk of developing rabies if exposed. Further, any pet that has had at least two rabies vaccinations in its lifetime is at extremely low risk of transmitting rabies to a human; the threat to public health is less than minuscule. Therefore, it is our recommendation that any companion animal that has had an adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine in the past or who is under the care of a licensed veterinarian for any acute or chronic medical condition should be exempt from rabies booster shots in keeping with the manufacturer's label directions.

 We urge the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) to lead the way for state health services agencies and lawmakers nationwide to waive rabies shots for companion animals at risk of adverse reaction based on health status, age and proximity of exposure when a licensed veterinarian requests exemption.

 

This petition was delivered to:
  • National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians
  • State Public Health Veterinarians Nationwide

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