Exempt Dogs and Cats When Rabies Vaccinations Will Harm Them

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    Texas Department of State Health Services, Zoonosis Control Department
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This petition is supported by responsible cat and dog owners to urge the Texas Department of State Health Services to grant an exemption for companion animals in or with a physical condition that precludes the safe immunization or re-immunization against rabies.

On February 27, 2003, the Texas Board of Health approved amendments to Texas Administrative Code Ch. 169, Rabies Control and Eradication. This amendment extended the interval between rabies booster shots to at least once every three years with a USDA licensed vaccine and according to label recommendations.

Despite this welcome relief, rabies immunization and re-immunization of companion animals still poses a significant risk.

Researchers believe the rabies vaccine causes adverse reactions in animals and concur that it should not be given more often than is necessary to maintain immunity. Adverse reactions to rabies vaccination can include autoimmune diseases affecting the thyroid, joints, blood, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and central nervous system; anaphylactic shock; fearfulness, aggression; seizures; epilepsy; and fibrosarcomas at injection sites.

The potential for negative side effects is even greater when an animal is in or has a physical condition that makes rabies vaccination or rabies booster shots risky.

Furthermore, the label recommendations on USDA licensed vaccines specifically advise patients who are immunosuppressed by disease or medications to postpone rabies vaccination or re-vaccination.

Yet under current Texas rabies law, there is no allowance for dogs and cats that are kept indoors or in a fenced yard, could never be exposed to rabies under any circumstances or who are so ill, old or at the end of their life that the rabies vaccine would push them over the edge.

All dogs and cats are treated the same.

Without proof of current rabies vaccination, any licensed veterinarian, boarding facility or grooming service may restrict or refuse services to a dog or cat, regardless of how dire or urgent the need.

Without proof of current rabies vaccination, a pet guardian with a dog or cat may be refused service at outdoor establishments or expelled from parks that cater to pets.

A pet guardian may not travel across the state of Texas with a dog or cat without a current rabies vaccination certificate; this companion animal may be refused transportation by train or airplane.

If a pet guardian fails or refuses to have each dog or cat s/he owns vaccinated against rabies and the animal is required to be vaccinated under state or local ordinances, this person can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor and is subject to a maximum fine of up to $500.

We believe that responsible pet guardians should not be required by Texas rabies laws to subject a beloved dog or cat whose health is already compromised to an unnecessary and potentially life threatening medical procedure.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, strongly urge the Texas Department of State Health Services to grant a standardized vaccination exemption for animals that are being treated by a licensed veterinarian for acute or chronic illness or that are prone to adverse reactions from the rabies vaccine.

We also strongly urge the Texas Department of State Health Services to mandate the universal acceptance by local animal control officers of this vaccination exemption for registering and licensing companion animals when it is signed by a licensed veterinarian.

This waiver would not exempt a pet guardian from licensing an animal according to state ordinances.

Instead, it would provide Texas citizens with a reasonable way to both protect the health of companion animals and also obey the law regarding licensing and controlling them to prevent exposure to rabies.

Thank you for your consideration.