January 07, 2010

Action Alert: Reform WEST VIRGINIA 2 Year Rabies Law

The Rabies Challenge Fund is mobilizing a writing campaign to help pet owners in the West Virginia reform outdated rabies laws.

Rabies laws in West Virginia that require rabies shots every two years run contrary to recommendations of all the national veterinary medical associations as well as the labeled specifications of all rabies vaccines licensed by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). Furthermore, they potentially violate consumer protection laws by requiring West Virginia pet owners to purchase a product with no medical benefit and the possibility of considerable harm. Finally, they subject family pets to the potential for adverse reactions from the mildly uncomfortable to deadly. West Virginia is the only state in the country that requires rabies shots more often than every three years.

See the letter to state government officials from Kris Christine below.

How You Can Help: 

Contact West Virginia legislators and ask them to introduce a bill changing the two year booster requirement to conform to the three year protocol recommended by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians Rabies Compendium and ask your pet-owning friends to do the same.

West Virginia Legislature: Senate http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Senate1/members/senmemview.cfm# House http://www.legis.state.wv.us/House/members/delmemview1.cfm (this link will assist you in finding your legislators) A full e-mail list of West Virginia's Senators and Representatives is at the bottom of this post.

Contact the State Veterinarian, Dr. Gary Kinder at (304) 558-2214 Ext. 4640 Cell Phone: 546-9560 or gkinder@ag.state.wv.us

Contact Attorney General Darrell McGraw Phone: (304) 558-2021 consumer@wvago.gov

January 7, 2010

Dr. Gary Kinder, State Veterinarian Attorney General Darrell McGraw
Department of Agriculture Animal Health Division State Capitol Complex
1900 Kanawha Blvd. NE Bldg. 1, Room E-26
Charleston, WV 25305 Charleston, WV 25305

RE: VACCINATION OF DOGS AND CATS - West Virginia Code Chapter 19 Article 20 §19-20A-2

Dear Dr. Kinder and General McGraw:

On behalf of The Rabies Challenge Fund and West Virginia pet owners, I am writing to alert you to the fact that West Virginia’s rabies regulations (Code Chapter 19, Article 20 §19-20A-2, Vaccination of Dogs and Cats) requiring that dogs and cats be “properly vaccinated or immunized against rabies with a vaccine capable of producing immunity for two years and shall every second year thereafter have such dog or cat revaccinated with a vaccine capable of producing immunity for two years" is contrary to the recommendations of all the national veterinary medical associations as well as the labeled specifications of all rabies vaccines licensed by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Center for Disease Control’s National Association of State Public Health Veterinarian's (NASPHV) Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control 2008 states that, “Vaccines used in state and local rabies control programs should have at least a 3-year duration of immunity. This constitutes the most effective method of increasing the proportion of immunized dogs and cats in any population (50).” They specifically warn that, “[n]o laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual or biennial administration of 3- or 4-year vaccines following the initial series.” Also endorsing the NASPHV’s Rabies Compendium are the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).[1]

Requiring West Virginia’s pet owners to pay for medically unnecessary rabies vaccinations at least every 24 months, from which their animal derive no benefit, raises ethical and legal issues which may violate the state’s consumer protection laws as well as the Veterinarians Practice Act (Article 10) when veterinarians are compelled to administer 3 year vaccines (there are no 2 year rabies vaccines licensed by the USDA), off-label every 2 years in order for their clients to comply with state law.

Immunologically, rabies vaccines are the most potent of the veterinary vaccines and “are the most common group of biological products identified in adverse event reports received by the CVB [Center for Veterinary Biologics]."[2] They are associated with significant adverse reactions such as polyneuropathy “resulting in muscular atrophy, inhibition or interruption of neuronal control of tissue and organ function, incoordination, and weakness.”[3] Auto-immune hemolytic anemia,[4] autoimmune diseases affecting the thyroid, joints, blood, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel, and central nervous system; anaphylactic shock; aggression; seizures; epilepsy; and fibrosarcomas at injection sites are all linked to the rabies vaccine. [5] [6] It is medically unsound for this vaccine to be given more often than is necessary to maintain immunity.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association[7] in 2005, the risk of an allergic reaction has been documented to "increase after the third or fourth injection of a vaccine (ie, a booster response) " and is "inversely related to a dog's weight," indicating that West Virginia's scientifically unfounded 2 year rabies protocol exposes its domestic dogs, especially small breeds and puppies, to unnecessary potential harm by mandating medically redundant rabies boosters.

The labels on rabies vaccines state that they are for “the vaccination of healthy cats, dogs…,” and there are medical conditions for which vaccination can jeopardize the life or well-being of an animal. A medical exemption clause inserted into the new 3 year Rabies Law being considered would allow veterinarians to write waivers for animals for whom medical conditions preclude vaccination. The State of Maine inserted such an exemption into the 3 year rabies protocol, 7 M.R.S.A., Sec. 3922(3), it adopted in 2004 as follows:

A. A letter of exemption from vaccination may be submitted for licensure, if a medical reason exists that precludes the vaccination of the dog. Qualifying letters must be in the form of a written statement, signed by a licensed veterinarian, that includes a description of the dog, and the medical reason that precludes vaccination. If the medical reason is temporary, the letter shall indicate a time of expiration of the exemption.

B. A dog exempted under the provisions of paragraph 5 A, above, shall be considered unvaccinated, for the purposes of 10-144 C.M.R. Ch.251, Section 7(B)(1), (Rules Governing Rabies Management) in the case of said dog’s exposure to a confirmed or suspect rabid animal.

The Rabies Challenge Fund strongly urges the state to amend West Virginia Code Chapter 19, Article 20 §19-20A-2 Vaccination of Dogs and Cats, to conform to the national standard set by the CDC’s NASPHV’s Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control and respectfully requests that medical exemption language be inserted into the law.

Kris L. Christine
Founder, Co-Trustee

cc: Governor Joe Machin, III
West Virginia Legislature

Dr. W. Jean Dodds
Dr. Ronald Schultz


[1] American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force. 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, 28pp.; and ibid. 2006 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Revised, 28 pp.

[2] Frana, Timothy, et als. Postmarketing Surveillance of Rabies Vaccines for Dogs to Evaluate Safety and Efficacy, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association April 1, 2008 issue, Vol. 232, No. 7

[3] Dodds, W. Jean Vaccination Protocols for Dogs Predisposed to Vaccine Reactions, The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, May/June 2001, Vol. 37, pp. 211-214

[4] Duval D., Giger U.Vaccine-Associated Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in the Dog, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 1996; 10:290-295

[5] American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board, April 2001, Principles of Vaccination, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Volume 219, No. 5, September 1, 2001.

[6] Vascelleri, M. Fibrosarcomas at Presumed Sites of Injection in Dogs: Characteristics and Comparison with Non-vaccination Site Fibrosarcomas and Feline Post-vaccinal Fibrosarcomas; Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Series A August 2003, vol. 50, no. 6, pp. 286-291.

[7] Moore, George E. et als., Adverse events diagnosed within three days of Vaccine Administration in Dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol 227, No. 7, October 1, 2005


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