Pet Owners Say "Yes" to Exempt Dogs and Cats from Rabies Vaccinations

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Texas pet owners demand change in rabies laws to exempt sick and senior pets from compulsory rabies vaccinations when the Department of Health Services Council meets on August 6 2007.

Texas residents will present a petition to urge the Texas Department of Health Services to amend its compulsory vaccination of all companion animals for rabies regardless of their health, age or potential for exposure when it meets on Monday August 6, 2007 at the Moreton Building, 1100 W 49th St, Austin, TX.

Texas residents who love animals say this exemption is long overdue.

Overdue consideration

In 2003, the Texas Department of Public Health adopted a three-year interval between rabies vaccinations for dogs, one year for cats. This legislative action partially aligned state laws with the recommendations of 22 veterinary medical schools and leading veterinary professional associations to curb unnecessary vaccinations due to potential health risks.

This legislation left the final decision about the interval for rabies booster shots up to each community. And it made no allowance for companion animals in the care of a licensed veterinary for acute or chronic health issues.

Today, many Texas counties and cities, including Travis and Austin, still require annual rabies vaccinations regardless of the health status of the dog, cat or ferret when it is due.

Proof of a current rabies vaccination is required by many veterinarians, emergency veterinary services, many grooming and boarding services as well as by trains and airlines. Without it, services can be limited or denied entirely regardless how dire the need.

This forces many Texas pet owners to make Sophie's choice: obey the law at the risk of further insult -- and possibly death - to an injured pet or disobey the law and risk the animal's life at the hands of zealous animal control officers.

According to Dr. Bob Rogers, D.V.M. a Houston, TX veterinarian who is providing the science to support the need for a rabies exemption, there is little risk to any community. By contrast, the unintended consequences of repeat insults to an animal in a compromised state are of health are serious.

Duration of immunity

Rabies vaccine has been proven to have a minimum duration of immunity of three years by challenge to the USDA, seven years by serology by Dr. Ronald Schultz, Professor and Chair, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison and four years for cats and five years for dogs by challenge by Michel F. Aubert, a French research scientist.

According to Dr. Aubert's study, the chances of a dog or cat developing rabies in the United States that has had one rabies vaccination is less than one in eight million, (less than 1:8,000,000)

Any dog, cat or ferret that has had two rabies vaccinations is at very low risk of contracting and transmitting the disease. By contrast, the danger of adverse reaction in an immune-suppressed animal is far graver.

"There is a temporal association between adverse reactions like Vaccine Associated Sarcoma in cats and Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia in dogs and cats," states Dr. Rogers in a letter to TDHS requesting an exemption for pets with a history of reactions or existing health issues. "They can be deadly."

But injection site tumors and IMHA are the tip of the iceberg according to veterinarians, veterinary medicine associations, research scientists and pet owners who want legal reform.

Veterinarians in the USA and worldwide are attributing an epidemic of common problems that they relate directly to vaccines. These include ear or skin conditions, such as chronic discharges and itching and behavior problems such as fearfulness or aggression.

Pet owners often report that these symptoms begin shortly after vaccination and are exacerbated with every re-vaccination.

"My Service Dog almost died from a severe adverse reaction to a routine vaccination in 2003," says Pat Styles, a Texas pet owner who supports the petition. "It affected her neurologically and rendered her unable to properly function as a Service Dog for 10 months."

More, both knowledgeable veterinarians and rabies vaccine manufacturers advise against administering the drug to animals in a weakened condition.

A dog, cat or ferret that is stressed, under a general anesthetic or recovering from surgery, that has a chronic illness, allergies, is on treatment for an infection or has a history of immune system disorder is at much higher risk of adverse reactions.

In these physical states an animal's immune system is either not functioning at its peak or is 'busy' dealing with another challenge. A multi-component live virus vaccine is a robust challenge to the
immune system and when given on top of other existing factors, it can prove too much for the animal to cope with.

The 2007 Compendium of Veterinary Drug Products states that all rabies vaccines licensed by the USDA specify on their label, "For administration to healthy dogs and cats."

Yet state and local laws in Texas stick to a "one size fits all" rabies booster protocol despite the unintended -- and undesirable - consequences. What's more, Texas veterinarians in many communities are required to administer them.

"To require re-vaccination when a booster shot will put the patient's life at risk in direct contradiction to the manufacturer's labeling is state-sanctioned malpractice," says Pamela Picard, a Texas pet owner who launched the petition. "A pet owner should not have to choose between endangering an animal's health and obeying the law."

The petition urges the Department of Health Services to give the attending veterinarian discretion in assessing the risk of rabies exposure versus the risk of an adverse and potentially fatal reaction to the rabies vaccine.

It is hoped that animals with at least two rabies shots, with known reactions, prone to reactions or in the care of a licensed veterinarian for chronic or acute illness would qualify for exemption.

This would not exempt pet owners from licensing their companion animals according to local ordinances, but instead give them a reasonable way to protect their pet's health and comply with rabies laws.

According to Dr. Tom J. Sidwa, DVM., Manager, Zoonosis Control Branch, State Public Health Veterinarian, Texas Department of State Health Services, .the state rule regarding rabies vaccinations can be amended by the Texas Department of Health Services Council. If approved, it will published for public comment for 30 days from date of publication.

People who love animals say, it's a start.

Pamela Picard is a business owner and has been an Austin resident since 1999. Formerly a Chicago marketing consultant and publicist, she has produced an inter-disciplinary conference on homelessness in Chicago, worked with community activists to block the installation of a regional landfill in Jo Daviess County and served on the Board of the JDC League of Women Voters.

Dr. Bob Rogers, D.V.M. a licensed veterinarian, is well known nationally for his advocacy in Texas for a science-based vaccine protocol. He is founder of, a non profit organization dedicated to the education of pet owners and the care-takers that help them.


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Pamela Picard

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