Minnesota plans statewide rabies rule


MPR file photo

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is writing a new rule to require rabies vaccination for all dogs in Minnesota.

I assumed this was already the case, but Minnesota is one of 10 states without a rabies vaccination requirement.

No one knows how many dogs in Minnesota aren’t vaccinated. Rules are left up to local governments who license pets like dogs and cats. In many rural areas there is no rabies vaccine requirement, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

There aren’t a lot of documented rabies cases in Minnesota — about 60 last year. The most common carriers are skunks, followed by bats.

Typically there are a half dozen or fewer cases in dogs each year. But Dr. Joni Scheftel, a public health veterinarian at the state Health Department said nearly all of those cases are unvaccinated dogs from rural areas that tussled with an infected skunk.

In rural areas, dogs tend to have more freedom to roam and run into those skunks.

Human cases of rabies are rare but always deadly. Scheftel said the bigger problem is all the people who need rabies shots because a dog that bit them wasn’t vaccinated. From 2003 to 2009 there were 24 rabid dogs reported in Minnesota, she said.

As a result, 360 people needed shots. Total cost: $1.1 million. Scheftel said the cost of rabies shots for a human after they are bitten is 19 times greater than the cost of vaccinating a dog against rabies. Prevention is cheaper than the cure.

The rule would exempt animal shelters. On a related note, the Centers for Disease Control is suggesting animal shelter workers be vaccinated for rabies because they are among the people most likely to be exposed to rabies.

That recommendation was highlighted by a case at a Grand Forks shelter last year. A dog from rural Minnesota with no record of vaccination caused 21 people to need rabies shots.

The rabies vaccine rule is still being written. The approval process will take at least a year and there will be a chance for public input before the rule is finalized.

One sticking point could be enforcement of the new rule. In rural areas that would be up to the county sheriff in most cases.

  • I would bet my life that almost all of these dogs were stray dogs and thus more like wild animals than housepets.

    This law will have zero effect on the REAL problem we have in the US regarding rabies:

    There is STILL no definitive test for rabies without killing the animal in question. We are spending billions on cancer research while a communicable disease like rabies is having a very significant revival among wild animals with very little fanfare .

    I’m also surprised that 10 states apparently have no state requirement for dogs to have the rabies vaccine.

    But canine rabies is not a problem in this country except in rural areas where they run free and without any close supervision by their owners.

    The rabies vaccine is NOTT completely safe and/or effective. If it was, we would be giving the vaccine directly to 200 pound humans instead of indirectly trying to protect humans by vaccinating our 20 pound dogs which are frequently suffering dire consequences.

    Bill Zardus ………..

    devilsadvacat at gmail.com ……


  • January 17, 2011

    Dr. Bill Hartmann, State Veterinarian

    Minnesota Board of Animal Health

    625 Robert Street North

    St. Paul, MN 55155

    RE: Rabies Vaccination Rulemaking for Minnesota Pets

    Greetings Dr. Hartmann:

    It has come to our attention that the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is in the process of developing a rabies vaccination rule for Minnesota’s dogs, cats, and ferrets to establish a consistent rabies protocol throughout the state.

    The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust respectfully requests that your Department consider drafting the new rule based, in part, on the language contained in Florida’s rabies statute, Title XLVI Chapter 828, and that initial vaccination be required at the age of six (6) months as in the protocols of Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, and West Virginia. Florida, along with the states of Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin all have medical exemption clauses in their rabies regulations for animals deemed by a veterinarian to be too ill to be vaccinated, and we request that Minnesota’s new regulation include a similar exemption.

    Below is proposed language that The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust asks that you consider in your deliberations:

    (1) All dogs, cats, and ferrets 6 months of age or older must be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian against rabies with a vaccine that is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture for use in those species. The owner of every dog, cat, and ferret shall have the animal revaccinated 12 months after the initial vaccination. Thereafter, the interval between vaccinations shall conform to the vaccine manufacturer’s directions. The cost of vaccination must be borne by the animal’s owner.

    (2) A dog, cat, or ferret is exempt from vaccination against rabies if a licensed veterinarian has examined the animal and has certified in writing that at the time vaccination would endanger the animal’s health because of its age, infirmity, disability, illness, or other medical considerations. An exempt animal must be vaccinated against rabies as soon as its health permits.

    (3) Upon vaccination against rabies, the licensed veterinarian shall provide the animal’s owner and the animal control authority with a rabies vaccination certificate. Each animal control authority and veterinarian shall use the “Rabies Vaccination Certificate” of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) or an equivalent form approved by the local government that contains all the information required by the NASPHV Rabies Vaccination Certificate. The veterinarian who administers the rabies vaccine to an animal as required under this section may affix his or her signature stamp in lieu of an actual signature.

    If you have any questions or would like further information, please feel free to contact me.


    Kris L. Christine

    Founder & Co-Trustee

    The Rabies Challenge Fund



    cc: Dr. W. Jean Dodds

    Dr. Ronald Schultz

    Minnesota Legislature

  • Thanks for bringing this to the attention of Minnesotans. There is currently a lot of work being done to raise awareness of responsible vaccination practices, as the rabies vaccine, while necessary, is not without risk to the health of pets who are vaccinated.

    Common sense guidelines about frequency of vaccination combined with the allowance of medical exemption for pets too ill to vaccinate are important components to this kind of legislation. Please see the action alert posted at the Pet Health Action Network for details.

    To learn more about how the rabies vaccination can affect your pet if administered too frequently, please see this post and also visit the Rabies Challenge Fund.

  • Bill Zardus

    Why were both of my comments taken down ?

    Bill Zardus



  • robert davis

    On March 26, 2006 the Pensacola, Florida News Journal reported the arrest of two local men for dragging a donkey behind their pickup. According to the paper, several witnesses called 911 to report the incident, the donkey was taken to a veterinarian for treatment, and the accused were taken to jail and held on $5,000 bond.

    Suppose these same men, or others, knowingly gave their pet dogs and cats unnecessary and potentially harmful vaccinations every year. Should they be accountable for their actions? Many veterinarians state that family pet dogs and cats are given unnecessary rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and other vaccinations which can have serious, and sometimes fatal, side effects.

    For example, why would a veterinarian give your dog or cat a USDA-approved 3-year rabies vaccine every year if neither local nor state law require it, the vaccine manufacturer does not recommend it, principal veterinary organizations and institutions recommend against it, and fatal vaccination-site sarcomas have been observed in cats since the 1990s? And why would your veterinarian then falsely state on the rabies vaccination certificate that the vaccination expires in one year? Why would your veterinarian give a distemper or parvovirus vaccination every year if the vaccine has a known immunity of three or more years? And why would a veterinarian do this without informing the pet owner and obtaining his/her consent?

    This happened to my robust 4-year old retriever in 2004. Buddy stopped eating within a week after his fourth annual rabies vaccination. He developed weird lesions under his legs and on his feet, and other strange skin symptoms which his vet could not diagnose. He was euthanized within 30 days at the recommendation of his vet.. After investigating, I learned that his vet had given him a 3-year rabies vaccine every year for three years without asking or telling me, and that he had falsely stated the duration of the vaccine on the State Rabies Vaccination Certificate.

    The Association of State Public Health Veterinarians has stated the following since 2002 in its annually published Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control : “No laboratory or epidemologic data exist to support the annual or biennial administration of a 3-year [rabies] vaccine following the initial series [vaccination in each of the first two years].”

    The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Principles of Vaccination published in 2001 states that “Unnecessary stimulation of the immune system does not result in enhanced disease resistance, and may increase the risk of adverse post-vaccination events.” The AVMA’s 2004 position “…recommends that veterinarians follow the recommendations regarding recognized duration of immunity and route of inoculation outlined in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control…”

    The American Animal Hospital Association’s 2003 study recommended the following concerning the 3-year rabies vaccine: “Every effort should be made to change laws that require vaccination with this rabies product more often than every 3 years since animal vaccinations cannot be shown to increase efficacy and it is known to increase adverse events.”

    The 2005 Florida legislature passed HB 0255, effective January 1, 2006, which states that “…the interval between [rabies] vaccinations shall conform to the vaccine manufacturer’s directions” after the vaccinations required in each of the first two years. Florida Statute 828.30 has been updated to incorporate this change. Prior to this, the 2003 Florida Statute did not specify annual rabies vaccination, but required the veterinarian to enter “the expiration date of the vaccination” as well as “the vaccine lot number and expiration date” on the rabies vaccination certificate.

    Part III of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control (available on-line) identifies the four USDA approved manufacturers of the one-year and three-year rabies vaccines for dogs and cats. A three-year vaccine has been available for over twenty years. If you want to know if your veterinarian has been giving your companion pet a three-year vaccine every year, get the name of the manufacturer and lot number from your rabies vaccination certificate, then call the manufacturer and ask for the product name.

    If your one-year rabies vaccine is made by two of the four USDA approved manufacturers, their representatives have told me that the only effective difference between their one and three-year vaccines is the label. They are simply meeting the demand for the one-year vaccine where required or permitted by law, even though the vaccine conveys the same duration of immunity as their three-year vaccine. Many local rabies laws are not based on science. This means that some veterinarians are annually administering one and three-year rabies vaccines which convey a known three-year immunity.

    If you want information for distemper and parvovirus vaccinations, call the manufacturer and ask for the duration of immunity of the vaccine used. A 2004 Fort Dodge Animal Health study documents a minimum duration of immunity for these two vaccines as three years. Pfizer, in 2004, stated that its vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parainfluenza were protective for up to and beyond four years..

    If you believe that your pet may have died from overvaccination due to veterinary negligence, good luck on finding an attorney. In Florida, courts are divided on recovery, and pets are mere “property” before the law, despite the fact that the AVMA’s own scientific marketing survey shows that over 97 percent of U.S. pet owners consider their pet to be either part of their family (46.9 percent) or a pet/companion (50.9 percent) rather that property (2.2 percent).

    Are we dealing with veterinary ignorance, apathy, greed, or all of the above? Since rabies has been virtually eliminated from the domestic canine population in the U.S., why would veterinarians administer vaccinations which provide no additional benefit while increasing risk to the animal’s health? The last human case of rabies due to animal exposure in Florida was in 1947. The two cases reported in 1994 and 1996 were from dog bites received in Haiti and Mexico.

    For a comprehensive review of the animal overvaccination problem, I recommend the website of Dr. Bob Rogers, DVM, at http://www.critteradvocacy.org., in Spring, Texas.

    There is also the potential consumer fraud issue of advertising a vaccine with known three-year immunity as a one-year vaccine, or falsely advertising the need for annual revaccinations which offer no added benefit while increasing the risk of adverse reactions. Unfortunately, I believe the Federal agency responsible for animal vaccinations has legal immunity from lawsuits.

    Good luck, Minnesotans, on preventing the passage of one more version of the annual animal rabies vaccination scam.

  • cat

    I find it difficult to comprehend the statistics quoted in the original article: ” From 2003 to 2009 there were 24 rabid dogs reported in Minnesota, she said.

    As a result, 360 people needed shots. Total cost: $1.1 million”

    24 dogs bit 360 people??????

    Each dog bit 15 people???

  • Jessica Levy, DVM

    Please investigate the wisdom of this matter thoroughly before acting out of fear. The rabies vaccine routinely provides lifelong immunity after initial (one time) administration in dogs and cats. Yes, all dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies. Does the vaccine need to be repeated, or brought “up to date”? Not likely. I have been running rabies titers on my patients for years. These animals are protected from rabies 10 and 12 years after the initial vaccination. Also, please review carefully the research findings of Dr. Jean Dodds and Dr. Ron Schultz. You may not be aware that on the vaccine insert there are warnings against vaccinating animals who are stressed, nutritionally deficient, or ill with acute or chronic disease. Yet my colleagues seem to vaccinate animals regardless of their state of health with the statement that the rabies vaccine is “required by law”. However, as a licensed veterinarian, I am required by law to exercize my medical judgement, not rip off my clients, and not harm my patients.

  • h2ofwlr


    I believe that if you are “exposed” to a rabid animal, they treat you as infected. Meaning likley hardly any one was bitten, bit came into contact with the animal.

    As for the proposed law, there is no way if the manufacturer says every 3 years that it should be given every year (as some local govts regs say – and potentially this new state reg.). So I can see that being a big problem to our animals health.

    And being manufacturer to manufacturer can be different and also with over time the frequency could be changed by the various manufacturers, then if a state law does go into effect, its language must follow manufacturer recomendations.

  • Lindy Forstater

    As the owner of a several cats who got vaccine- site tumors and a dog who had a life-threatening reaction to the rabies vaccine, I am opposed to making the rabies vaccine mandatory. This bill seems like an especially odd proposal because they want to exempt shelters from vaccinating. Shelters are far more likely to harbor an animal with rabies than the average home, and far more likely to expose hundreds of people to a rabies infected dog. They are the only ones who should be legally mandated to vaccinate if anybody is. A typical pet dog’s statistical odds of catching rabies that I saw are something like one in 500 million. Not really high odds!! The odds of having a reaction to a vaccine are much worse. If you look you could find endless stories of the heartbreak too many shots can cause. My coworker adopted a pug puppy, a breed not known for running wild and catching skunks but very prone to allergies, and it died within days of being brought home from a vaccine reaction from its second set of shots. A more sensible law for pet animals in private homes would require just one shot per animal at the most since the duration of immunity will most likely cover the animal’s whole life. Thank goodness the Rabies Challenge Fund is doing the research to ultimately protect our pets from being harmed or killed by over-vaccination.

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  • Dr. John Forden, DVM

    Current Veterinary Therapy by Kirk, the textbook bible for veterinarians in general, has an article on canine and feline vaccines by two researchers. Near the end of the article is a paragraph called Annual Vaccinations. It states “The practice of annual vaccinations lacks scientific validity or verification. There is no immunological requirement for annual vaccinations. The practice of annual vaccinations should be considered of questionable efficacy unless it is used as a mechanism to provide an annual physical examination or is required by law.” Sure, if we can’t manipulate you with annual vaccinations let’s pass a law to get you into the office. Nice trick!

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