Current Rabies Laws

In the United states, a dog owner is legally required to to vaccinate their dog every three years. The reasoning behind this is that if your dog was exposed to rabies, extreme consequences could result. It is still important though to ask the question, is the Rabies shot really designed to protect my dog?


 Recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state:


  1. Any dog that has not been vaccinated for rabies and has been exposed to a rabid animal should be immediately euthanized.
  2. If an owner does not agree with #1, the animal should be isolated for 6 months and they should receive the rabies vaccine one month before they are released from isolation.
  3. Exposure by a pet whose vaccine has expired needs to be individually evaluated.
  4. Pets with a current vaccine that are exposed should be kept under observation for a 45 day period.


The CDC states that about 6% of the 120,000 animals tested in the US annually for Rabies  are positive.  That number drops to less than 1% for domestic animals.




What Research Has Shown


According to Dr. Ronald Schultz, a veterinary immunologist  considered a leader in vaccination research, the duration of immunity for the  Rabies vaccine is at least 7 years. The law  however has decided that protection is no longer effective after 3 years.  So just what could be the reason behind such a difference of opinion?


The results of a study completed by the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory offers hope for future change in vaccine requirements. The Rabies vaccine introduces a “killed” germ which the dog’s immune system reacts to, as if it were exposed to the actual disease.  Antibodies are produced  that provide immunity.  Veterinarians are now able to rapidly screen a dogs immunity to Rabies through a new testing procedure, the Rapid Fluorescent Focus Inhibition Test.


The researchers determined that:bell-1401650


“Results indicated that dogs with out-of-date vaccination status were not inferior in their antibody response following booster rabies vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status. Findings supported immediate booster vaccination followed by observation for 45 days of dogs and cats with an out-of-date vaccination status that are exposed to rabies, as is the current practice for dogs and cats with current vaccination status.”


It is felt this test should be standard practice rather than requiring a dog to receive an immunization it does not need.  The anitbody test not only protects any public health concerns, it also protects dogs from possible unnecessary side effects from the vaccine that include pain, fever, encephalitis, seizures, injection site cancers and anaphylactic shock.


The  American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association  has issued official support of the findings of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and is calling for reform of current Rabies laws. They state:


“If an animal undergoes testing and is found to have adequate protection, the AHVMA supports reform of public health laws that require automatic revaccination. Such booster vaccinations may not be medically necessary. This new testing procedure allows screening for continued rabies vaccine response. This allows veterinarians and pet guardians to effectively decide upon a path that reduces risks of an adverse effect for individual animals while protecting any public health concerns.”


Considering all that research has recently determined, it is important to question the role of our veterinarians in this.  We all need to have confidence in the care that our vets provide, but I feel it is just as important that our vets question standards of care within their practice.  The current schedule for vaccines dates back to 1978 and was initiated without any scientific basis. So why has it continued? Critics of our vaccine 1405547679dcp2mpolicy point to money. They state that our vets perpetuate the need for vaccines as a way to ensure their profit margins as vaccines can represent up to 14% of an average veterinarians income.  I am truly unsure if this makes me more angry than just plain sad.


While no changes have been made to current vaccination laws, there is optimism for a future where dogs would not be required to have unnecessary and possibly harmful vaccinations simply to be in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, considering the slowness our legal system is known for, it is impossible to predict when change will be here.




10 comments on “The Rabies Vaccine Laws – Are They Really Designed To Protect Your Dog?

  • Hi Erin, thank you for this post! It really hits home, as I am always nervous and hesitant to give my pet beagle unnecessary vaccines. He suffered a severe allergic reaction to a ‘mandatory’ vaccine when he was just a puppy, and we have found that the best vets will now offer alternatives, like blood tests that will check for immunity before requiring a booster shot. This has since saved our poor guy from unnecessary illness and emergency visits. Hopefully, this will continue to be the vaccination philsophy handed down to veterinarians of the future. Is there a place one can find more infromation about the new rabies laws?

    • Hi Carmen, I agree with you that the best vets are the ones that approach vaccinations with caution when a pet, such as your Beagle, has had an adverse reaction. I am glad that your dog came out ok, it is very scary to think that we could be harming our pets by trying to ensure their safety. I would use to keep up to date on the Rabies vaccine as they are working for reform.

      Take Care,


  • Hello here, I think that you touched a really important topic regarding vaccination. I see here pattern as with humans. Everywhere is promotion to take flu shots or do not let children go to school without proper vaccination.
    I guess that here interests of business are hiding.
    They want to sell as much more doses of vaccines. Big Pharma does not care about side effects.
    What is interesting, that they do not take responsibility if something goes wrong. Nobody can suit a drug company, which makes vaccines.
    It is the same with animals.
    Your article is important, because you spreading message about danger of vaccination, especially if animals do not need it.
    Awareness is a great thing. I wish that your audience would think about these problems and would make proper decisions.
    All the best, Nemira.

    • Hi Nemira,

      I could not agree with you more. It seems in so many ways that making a $ is more important than doing what is right, or in this case, NOT doing something. I have always questioned my Vet when she insists that I must have my dogs tested each year for heartworm, when they are given medication monthly to prevent heartworm. Seems to me another way to control my wallet. My goal is to help my readers know when to question something that could effect the health and safety of their pets.

      Take Care,


  • Great info-thank you for sharing! I appreciate when vets (or really anyone) questions things to be sure it is the right decision for the individual/pet. Overall I believe in vaccines but it is scary to think of it causing harm vs the protecting that it should do. It is no wonder this is a hot topic!

    • Hi and thanks for visiting. The bottom line is that vets are running a business and do what they do to make money. I have not kept up the rabies vaccine for my cat since she is an indoor cat and cannot be exposed. When she did get ill and needed to see the vet, I had to agree to have the vaccine administered before they would see her. I trust my vet but it seems that she is hiding behind the legalities of the vaccine in order to force me to purchase the vaccine for my cat.

      Take Care,


  • Hi Erin! This is a great article, I really liked hearing about this, because I myself, have a dog and two cats. My dog has gotten a rabies shot a couple of years ago, and is very healthy. However, they constantly urge us to get him vaccinated again for his Rabies shot even though he had one about three years ago. I understand the concern of Rabies and how it can be very bad for animals who contract it, but I feel as though the rabies shot my dog got a few years ago is still good. But then again I’m not a vet and don’t know everything, I personally think its just another way to beef up your vet bill at the end of the day. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Hi Megan,

      Thanks for your great comments! I will say that I agree with you, the current schedule of every 3 years for the Rabies vaccine is a great way to ensure a vet’s profit margin. When research shows that the vaccines’ protection lasts at least 7 years, it angers me that we are forced to give this shot to our dogs more frequently. Until current laws change, veterinarians will assert that the shot is necessary and profit from a vaccine that has the potential for very serious side effects fir our dogs.

      Take Care,


  • I have two toy poodles and they both weigh about 9-10 lbs. Shortly after we adopted them, I took them to our vet to have them immunized, but have not been back since…And that was nearly 5 years ago. My issue is that no matter if a dog weighs 100 lbs or 10 lbs, they get the same shot. It seems like too much for my little girls. Do you have an opinion on this?

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