August 31, 2007

Texas Maintains Status Quo on Rabies Exemption

When we petitioned the Texas Department of Health Services to grant a medical exemption for sick and senior pets, we positioned it as a small step for companion animals. Instead, the response of TDHS appears to reinforce the status quo: no rabies exemption for sick and senior pets. .

1. Instead, they effectively close the small loophole this statement afforded. The following provision has been struck from the rules entirely.

"The vaccine must be administered according to label recommendations."

There are two ways to look at this:

Striking this provision can be viewed as a loss to owners of dogs and cats that are prone to adverse reactions, have been damaged by repeat vaccinations or could be injured by them when they are inappropriately administered.

Striking this provision validates the argument that the vaccine is not intended for animals in a vulnerable state of health. And Texas deleted it for legal considerations.

The amusing thing about this is that because rabies vaccine is USDA approved not regulated by FDA, label directions are not legally binding. There is no such thing as "off-label" use.

Since there were no legal considerations to over-vaccinating with rabies, veterinarians could do so with impunity before this; they can continue to vaccinate with impunity No change there.

I guess it's about eliminating that "less than 1 in 8 million chance of an animal with one rabies vaccination contracting rabies.

2. Proposed rule changes give a veterinarian discretion in the interval between rabies booster shots when the vet uses a USDA - approved drug. I assume this means regardless of whether Duration of Immunity is 1, 3, 4 or 10 years for either dog or cat.

But knowing how the TDHS Council approached this, it is less public benefit as it is a savings to their department. Now they can sit on their asses drawing fat salaries without exercising their brains when new vaccines with appropriate duration of immunity and approved.

3. It provides for administration of the drug in whatever part of the anatomy the manufacturer directs. I suppose this means that if a manufacturer says so, you can vaccinate a cat in the leg. Amputation is so much easier when the injection site develops cancer.

For your convenience, I have excerpted some important changes in definitions which could threaten the status of dogs and cats as property. I have copied the proposed changes entirely. You can also go to the Texas Register online where these proposed rule changes are published.

This TinyURL redirects to:


The following words and terms, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. Unless defined below, all words have definitions as provided in the Texas Health and Safety Code, §826.002.

(5) [ (4) ] Currently vaccinated--Vaccinated and satisfying all the following criteria.

(A) The animal must have been vaccinated against rabies with a vaccine licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for that animal species at or after the minimum age requirement and using the recommended route of administration for the vaccine [ according to the label recommendations of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved vaccine ].

(B) At least 30 days have elapsed since the initial vaccination.

(C) The time elapsed since the most recent vaccination has not exceeded the recommended interval for booster vaccination as established by the manufacturer [ label recommendations of the vaccine ].

§169.29.Vaccination Requirement.

(a) The [ owner or ] custodian (excluding animal shelters as defined in the Texas Health and Safety Code, §823.001 ) of each [ domestic ] dog or cat shall have the animal vaccinated against rabies by 16 weeks [ four months ] of age. The animal must be vaccinated by or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian with rabies vaccine licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture for that animal species at or after the minimum age requirement and using the recommended route of administration for the vaccine. The attending veterinarian has discretion as to when the subsequent vaccination will be scheduled as long as the revaccination due date does not exceed the recommended interval for booster vaccination as established by the manufacturer or vaccination requirements instituted by local ordinance. The custodian shall retain each vaccination certificate until the animal receives a subsequent booster. [ The animal must receive a booster within the 12-month interval following the initial vaccination. Every domestic dog or cat must be revaccinated against rabies at a minimum of at least once every three years with a rabies vaccine licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. The vaccine must be administered according to label recommendations. ] Livestock (especially those that have frequent contact with humans), domestic ferrets, and wolf-dog hybrids should be vaccinated against rabies. The administration of a rabies vaccine in a species for which no licensed vaccine is available is at the discretion of the veterinarian; however, an animal receiving a rabies vaccine under these conditions will not be considered to be vaccinated against rabies virus in potential rabies exposure situations. [ Nothing in this section prohibits a veterinarian and owner or custodian from selecting a more frequent rabies vaccination interval. Health and Safety Code, §§826.014 and 826.015 allow local jurisdictions to establish more frequent rabies vaccination intervals. ]

(b) An official [ Official ] rabies vaccination certificate [ certificates ] shall be issued for each animal by the [ vaccinating ] veterinarian responsible for administration of the vaccine and contain the following information:

(1) custodian's [ owner's ] name, address, and telephone number;

(2) - (4) (No change.)

(5) revaccination due date [ date vaccination expires (revaccination due date) ];

(6) (No change.)

(7) veterinarian's signature , [ or ] signature stamp , or computerized signature, plus address, phone number, and license number.

(c) Each veterinarian who issues a rabies vaccination certificate, or the veterinary practice where the certificate was issued, shall retain a readily retrievable copy of the certificate [ A copy of each rabies vaccination certificate issued shall be retained by the issuing veterinarian and be readily retrievable ] for a period of not less than two years after the revaccination due date [ five years from the date of issuance ].

(d) (No change.)


There are no anticipated economic costs to persons who are required to comply with the sections as proposed. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners were contacted about proposed changes to rabies vaccination certificate requirements; there is not an anticipated fiscal impact for veterinarians who will need to comply with these amendments.


After careful consideration of alternatives, the department concludes that the rules, as revised, provide a clear, concise comprehensive policy of rabies control that will diminish public exposure to rabies...

I laugh that TDHS believes these changes will "diminish public exposure to rabies." From zero to less than zero?

We must object to the elimination of this language:

"The vaccine must be administered according to label recommendations."

To ignore scientific basis and manufacturer's label recommendations flies in the face of common sense. And it penalizes ethical Texas veterinarians and responsible pet owners for obeying the law.

Why am I surprised?

This is the same state that just approved a ceiling of 18% A WEEK on consumer credit card interest.

This is the same state that just executed its 403rd person - for being in the company of someone who committed a crime.

Texas is No. 1 in the country in people without health care insurance.

It is 34th out of 50 states in the nation when it comes to education.

And now it is one of only 5 states nationwide that blatantly ignore the guidelines of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians who ae responsible to set consistent and well-informed standards for rabies prevention and control.

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