Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 10, 2011

Rabies Vaccination and The Law

Posted at 03:19PM - Comments: (25)

I saw a news item over the weekend announcing that my state’s governor (California’s Jerry Brown) signed “Molly’s Bill” (AB 258), exempting certain dogs from the rabies vaccine requirement. Dogs whose lives would be endangered by the vaccination “due to disease or other considerations that a veterinarian can verify and document” -- as determined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis – now have a legal means of avoiding vaccination against rabies. California is the 14th state to sign such a bill into law.

This is great news for dogs who have suffered adverse reactions to rabies vaccines, and for debilitated senior dogs (who have perhaps the longest history or previous vaccinations, the least risk of coming into contact with rabid animals, AND the most risk of suffering side effects of the rabies vaccine). However, it’s NOT a tool that should be used to justify the failure to vaccinate just ANY dog against rabies, for a number of reasons:

1. According to the bill, any dog who receives this exemption would be required to be  “confined to the premises of the owner, keeper, or harborer, and would require, if the dog is off the premises of the owner, keeper, or harborer, the dog to be on a leash not to exceed 6 feet in length and to be under the direct physical control of an adult.” Also, “A dog that is exempt from the provisions of this section shall not have contact with a dog or cat that is not currently vaccinated against rabies.” That’s pretty restrictive for many adult dogs – although not necessarily a burden for others.

2. Dogs should be vaccinated against rabies; no responsible owner would forego vaccination altogether. Pet vaccination has reduced the incidence of the disease in pets, wildlife, and humans in this country over the past few decades, but rabies still afflicts plenty of wild animals and poses risks to dogs and cats who come into contact with infected wildlife.

3. Your dog may be vaccinated, and titer tests may show that he is adequately protected from contracting the disease…but if he has been exempted from vaccination by meeting the provisions of this law, he will be considered unvaccinated in the eyes of the law. This can have serious repercussions should he bite another dog or a human and a bite report is filed – or if he has an encounter with a wild animal. In some communities, a dog in these situations might be ordered to be quarantined for 10 days at home; in others, he might be seized by animal control officers and quarantined at an animal shelter.

Rabies vaccinations are a good thing; every dog should have at least two in his lifetime. It’s debatable whether more are needed for the dog’s protection (or to protect public health) – though far more vaccinations are required by state law. We strongly support the Rabies Challenge Fund, which is conducting research that should demonstrate that existing rabies vaccines convey much longer protection than their labels indicate. These studies may well provide the proof needed to further change state laws, so that fewer vaccinations against rabies are required during our dogs’ lifetimes. See rabieschallengefund.org for more details.

Comments (23)

I think I found the list of the other states...see www.aimeeslaw.com. They report as of June 2010, 13 states: Alabama, CO, Connecticut, FL, Maine, MA, NH, NJ, NY, OR, VT, VA, WI

Posted by: robin r | October 13, 2011 2:45 AM    Report this comment

Thank you Melanie, I have been feeling like an idiot for not knowing who the current Gov. of CA is. First I thought it was Arnold because I don't live in the US anymore and I haven't kept track of things like that. So I was politely corrected and informed that Jerry Brown was elected in Nov. 2010. Then someone posts that is not Arnold or Jerry- it is Edmund G. Brown. So then I become totally confused! When you google it, some sites say it is Jerry and others Edmund. Finally, I called a friend in CA and he told that Jerry and Edmund are one and the same!

Anyway, I love Jerry and I commend him for signing "Molly's Bill"

Could anyone tell me what the 14 other states are?

Posted by: paige | October 12, 2011 2:37 PM    Report this comment

What are the 14 States (other than CA)??

Posted by: William C | October 12, 2011 1:04 PM    Report this comment

I recently used Dr Dodds to have titer testing through her lab for my pup. She is a wonderful resource, though be aware that the rabies titers go to the only approved lab at Kansas St Univ I believe. If you need your test results quickly, be aware that the rabies results can take far longer. I had quite a challenge in making sure the results were acceptable if we drove to Canada, but after multiple phone calls after attempting to get the information on-line, I did learn it was...though the titers would have to be repeated annually. I also spoke to a vet at one of the Canadian government offices, and we had a bit of a language issue...she spoke English with a significant French accent...trying to convey that to do the vaccine would be so much easier and less expensive than the testing!
I am confused by something in the article though, that said every pup should have at least 2 rabies vaccines...and I can't figure that one out. If they show adequate response from one, why would you do it again?

Posted by: robin r | October 11, 2011 10:45 PM    Report this comment

Jerry has been the governor of California twice. Many many many years ago (decades) and then just recently elected again in November 2010.
His father was Edmund Brown also a california governor
Arnold is Arnold Schwarzenegger who was governor just before Jerry got elected last year.

Posted by: dale silver | October 11, 2011 9:57 PM    Report this comment

To PrimitiveDog: Dr. Jean Dodds offers a Rabies Titer at her lab in califonia The name of the lab is Hemolife their website is www.hemopet.org. You will be able to get her titer testing prices on the website. I used her for parvo/distemper testing and was very happy with the process,reporting, and pricing. The big question is, will the states accept rabie's titers. I will have to struggle with this decision next year, titers vs. shot. Although I accept titers, will my State (MI)

Posted by: DIANE T | October 11, 2011 8:06 PM    Report this comment

In the Pacific NW there's never been a documented case of rabies and yet everyone lines up to have their pets vaccinated. Now THAT'S criminal. I've heard, "but what if a rabid bat......" OK, so how many bat bites have been documented in people or pets.....I mean seriously? I've personally never heard of a single one. Not to mention bats are on serious decline thanks to us. "But what about the rabid skunk?" OK, so I've lived on ranches for many years, dogs running all over huge acreages, skunks, foxes, coyotes, all kinds of critters and guess what? Not one dog was ever bit. EVER!!! Now I'm 50+, dogs all my life and I feel the chances of my dog being actually bitten by something rabid are pretty much zero. I feel the rabies vaccine threatens their health way more than the possibility of them ever encountering a rabid animal. I look at the odds. For my dogs I feel the odds are a big, fat zero. The one dog I gave a single parvo shot (because a vet put the fear of God into me) died soon after a horrible reaction and he died a very horrible death. Thanks, but I'll pass on the vaccines and instead support my dogs and my immune systems which have been seeing us through for many, many years.

Posted by: JILL R | October 11, 2011 8:00 PM    Report this comment

I have been tittering for vaccines for years, but was told there wasn't a rabies titer... is there? How do I get it- what is it's name, etc.? I would like to turn my vet onto this as I have turned her on to the whole titering thing and also the benefits of raw diet. I have a three-year state at the moment, but would love to extend this if possible through titering, etc. I'm on the seventh year for not re-vaccinating for parvo, distemper, etc. The titers show very strong response to the live viruses.

Posted by: Primitivedog | October 11, 2011 3:41 PM    Report this comment

This is good news. My dogs are (so far) pretty healthy and tolerate vaccination just fine, but who knows what changes might happen as they age. In my state (Kentucky) we at least have a 3yr vaccine requirement--some states still require yearly which is absurd. My vet is very progressive and as soon as state law permits will go with titers vs recaccination. I am encouraged that more states are coming on line with this.

Posted by: PJKutscher | October 11, 2011 3:32 PM    Report this comment

FYI: Edmund G. Brown JR = Jerry Brown! Gees!

Posted by: Melanie D | October 11, 2011 2:23 PM    Report this comment

Amazing that we as humans get one vaccination as a child for a disease, yet we think we need to vaccinate a dog every 12 or 36 months. Titers should become the standard nationwide in my opinion.

Posted by: VegasResident | October 11, 2011 1:44 PM    Report this comment

My 10 yr. old epileptic shepherd is refractory and will never be seizure free. Vaccinations are one of the many triggers for seizures. She has had rabies vaccination every 3 yrs. until she was 6 yrs. old. My vet gave me a waiver and I titer her every other yr. Currently, her titers remain very high.

Posted by: Esther W | October 11, 2011 1:40 PM    Report this comment

That aside. My pup got his 3 years rabies recently and this caused an acute colitis attack due to the immune system. Least to say he threw up, etc. bloody diarheaa. Luckily now I do not have to readdress this until 2014 when hopefully titers will be fine

Posted by: VegasResident | October 11, 2011 1:35 PM    Report this comment

You might want to check the law in New Jersey which has been in existence for many decades. I thought my state was backward requiring rabies vaccinations for only dogs with the exception as written. Golly!!! Rabies has been eradicated here for decades with the exception of bats, certain wildlife and cats, yet our state still does not have a licensing and ergo a rabies vaccination requirement for cats. How sad that so many dogs have to continue to suffer as science has proven many, many years ago that rabies vaccinations can be fatal:it can be difficult to find a vet to write the appropriate letter. Peace...

Posted by: Pamela R | October 11, 2011 1:34 PM    Report this comment

This is so funny! The Gov of California is currently Edmund G Brown, not Arnold or Jerry

Posted by: VegasResident | October 11, 2011 1:33 PM    Report this comment

The Gov of California is Edmund G Brown

Posted by: VegasResident | October 11, 2011 1:32 PM    Report this comment

When my dog's rabbies vaccine in FL comes up soon, my dog will be exempt per my vets letter. I have contacted Animal Control and it's OK in FL. My little 9 lb. baby has Cushings Disease, Thryroid Disease, horrible skin conditions and breathing problems-for yrs. He is confined to his oceanfront room with me and never goes out and is under a vets care. Any more vaccines would kill him, giving his frail sick state. He is only 8. One of his "booster vaccines" when he was healthy several yrs. ago almost killed him.

Posted by: GB | October 11, 2011 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Is there a listing available of the other states with similar legislation?

Posted by: Furrykids | October 11, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

The Healthy Dog Project commends the passing of Molly's Law!

Congratulations to all who worked so hard to get this bill passed - especially Kris Kristine and the Rabies Challenge Fund! They do such a wonderful job of keeping us informed on both the issues and the status of bills that will, eventually, impact on every single dog in this country.

Only 36 more states to go!

With common interests,

Gloria J. Cestero-Hurd,
Healthy Dog Project
Cooperstown, NY

Posted by: Gloria C | October 11, 2011 8:48 AM    Report this comment

sorry, I have been living abroad to long! My mistake, Jerry is most certainly the Gov. of CA! oops!

Posted by: paige | October 10, 2011 11:09 PM    Report this comment

Jerry Brown is INDEED the Gov. of California!!!

Posted by: Mleary | October 10, 2011 8:21 PM    Report this comment

Paige, Jerry Brown was elected governor again last November 2010.

Posted by: LAUREN W | October 10, 2011 5:44 PM    Report this comment

this all sounds great, but the last time I checked Jerry Brown has not been the governor of CA for many years. I believe he still holds some political office, but Arnold the adulterer is still in the Governor's mansion at this point.

Anyway, it makes me wonder how current this information is. Or is it just wishful thinking on your part? I am from CA as well, and it was a much better place under Jerry Brown's leadership.

Posted by: paige | October 10, 2011 5:24 PM    Report this comment

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