February 18, 2011

Rabies Medical Exemption No Protection in Bite Cases

Reader Joan Vecsy makes an important point about rabies medical exemption and veterinary compliance with local laws. She lives in New York state, which grants a medical waiver at the discretion of a licensed veterinarian. The waiver does not protect your pet if it is involved in a bite incident with another animal, especially wildlife. She writes:

I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion and approach to vaccinations. In New York State, where you can get an exemption from rabies, there is one glitch and pet owners should be aware so that they can protect their pet accordingly. Personally, I do not like vaccinating older dogs because they may very likely be on the precipice of illness and they probably don't need any more boosters.

However, if your unvaccinated pet (cat or dog) is bitten by an animal of unknown status and the vet reports this to authorities (as he is required to), that animal would be confined.

My vet had a case with a cat (not mine) who was bitten by a raccoon. He did NOT report it, but when the cat was taken to another vet, that vet did. The Board of Health called my vet and severely admonished him. The cat was required to be confined for a lengthy time--it was awful.
Meanwhile, we have never had rabies in the County of Suffolk, NY!

If I had an elderly or sick dog or cat, I would not vaccinate and would be sure he was not in a situation where he could be bitten and if he was, I would tell me vet he was bitten my a vaccinated animal.

People should be aware of this. Please make sure they are.

Joan Vecsey

In most cases, owners keep a close watch on dogs and cats who are ill or infirm whether they are inside or out. But if you still let your medically-exempt cat roam or turn your dog out without supervision - even in your own backyard - Joan reminds us that there are potential unintended consequences in the case of suspected exposure reported to Animal Control..

Licensed veterinarians are required by law - at the risk of losing their license - to report bite cases or cases of suspected exposure to unvaccinated animals.

In this case, your medically exempt dog or cat may be considered unvaccinated and subject to seizure and quarantine by Animal Control. If you cannot afford the quarantine, the animal must be destroyed.

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