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Wyoming's Frightening New Rule

Wyoming's State Department of Health created a new rule requiring unvaccinated dogs, cats or ferrets to be killed if they bite a person. This means that if your pet is just overdue for a rabies booster, she could be euthanized in Wyoming immediately after biting someone.

Kris Christine, Co-Trustee and Co-Founder of The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust, has given permission to reprint her letter to the Wyoming state veterinarian.

May 10, 2006

Dr. Jamie Snow
Wyoming Department of Public Health

Re:  Wyoming’s New Euthanasia Rule

Greetings Dr. Snow:

In light of current scientific research, Wyoming’s rabies rule requiring mandatory euthanasia for cats and dogs deemed “unvaccinated” is unjustified.  While I recognize that you have a mandate to protect public health, your new rule will needlessly take the lives of countless pets which are actually immune to rabies despite being overdue for or medically exempt from rabies boosters.

Under the new rule, it appears companion animals overdue for a rabies booster by a week or month (according to vaccine manufacturer’s recommendations) would be deemed “unvaccinated,” disregarding the fact that study results published in 1992 by Michel Aubert’s research team demonstrated that dogs were immune to a rabies challenge 5 years post-vaccination (see text of that study below).  Serological studies done by Dr. Ronald Schultz of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine show that dogs have antibody titer counts at levels known to confer immunity to rabies 7 years post-vaccination.  Based on the scientific research, any dog euthanized in Wyoming under this rule within 5 to 7 years of rabies vaccination will die needlessly. 

On Page 13 of the The American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA’s) 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines (accessible online at Leeburg Training http://www.leerburg.com/special_report.htm), it states:  “The minimum DOI for killed rabies vaccine based on challenge studies is 3 years; based on antibody titers, it is considered to be up to 7 years [Table 2].”  Vaccine manufacturers are not required by FDA to demonstrate long-term duration of immunity in order to license their products.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Principles of Vaccination (http://www.avma.org/issues/vaccination/vaccination.asp), “..revaccination frequency recommendations found on many vaccine labels …does not resolve the question about average or maximum duration of immunity [Page 2] and.may fail to adequately inform practitioners about optimal use of the product…[Page 4] .”   This holds true for rabies vaccines, as Aubert’s and Schultz’s studies demonstrate that rabies vaccination confers minimum duration of immunity in dogs far beyond vaccine manufacturers’ 3 year booster recommendation. 

In conversations with rabies vaccine researchers, I have been told that the Center for Disease Control has no recorded cases of any dog contracting rabies after receiving 2 rabies vaccinations.  The implication is that 2 rabies vaccinations confer a lifetime of immunity.  As a veterinarian, your own experience being vaccinated against rabies indicates the same.  The Populations at Risk for Rabies sheet from Chiron Corporation, manufacturers of the RabAvert rabies vaccines for humans is accessible at http://www.rabavert.com/risk.html.  Their pre-exposure vaccination recommendation for veterinarians, who are at greater risk than the general population for contracting rabies because their profession brings them into physical contact with potentially rabid animals, is for a “Primary course.  No serologic testing or booster vaccination.”   In other words, after the initial series of rabies vaccinations, it is not recommended that veterinarians receive further boosters or serological testing, they are considered to be immune to a challenge.   AAHA’s 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines (accessible online at Leeburg Training http://www.leerburg.com/special_report.htm) states on Page 18 that “There is no indication that the immune system of canine patients functions in any way different from the human immune system.  In humans, the epidemiological vigilance associated with vaccination is extremely well-developed and far exceeds similar efforts in animals whether companion or agricultural.  This vigilance in humans indicates that immunity induced by vaccination in humans is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, life-long.”  This strongly suggests that, like the human rabies vaccine, the canine rabies vaccine also provides life-long immunity.

The science reflects that Wyoming will be euthanizing immune dogs under the new euthanasia rule.  I strongly urge you to re-examine this policy and consult with the world’s leading authorities on veterinary vaccines -- Dr. W. Jean Dodds of Hemopet and Dr. Ronald Schultz of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine -- about modifying this scientifically unwarranted euthanasia rule.

Ensuring that Wyoming’s beloved companion animals are not needlessly euthanized justifies closer scrutiny of this rule.


Kris L. Christine
Co-Trustee, Co-Founder
The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust
Alna, ME 04535

May 11, 2006 in Legislation | Permalink


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I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. This is a really terrible story, but I only hope that it prompts people to keep their pets current on vaccines, so that needless tragedy need not result.

Posted by: thebizofknowledge | Aug 16, 2006 6:28:18 AM

a public hearing on this is scheduled for August 1st at 1:00 pm at the Herschler Bldg, Room 1299, 122 West 2th St., Cheyenne. Public comments, in writing are also being accepted by the Livestock Board. Their number is 307-777-6443.

Posted by: Anne | Jul 20, 2006 3:50:35 PM

Looks like the public outcry lightened up the law, BUT we still have to get them vaccinated every year, even if we use a 3 year booster. Give me a break.


Posted by: J | May 27, 2006 1:20:28 PM

I would think that such a law will be battled out in court and probably over-turned.

This law was probably enacted in response to irresponsible owners that do not vaccinate at all (yes, they are out there) or people who do not show responsible dog ownership due to a vicious dog.

Remember that May 21-27 is NATIONAL DOG BITE PREVENTION WEEK... a good time to remind children dog safety.

One reason for the quick process might be because an animal cannot be tested for rabies except for a post-mortem, rabies is a prion disease like mad cow disease and is found in brain tissue, if an animal is infected it may not show the signs when it bites, and the person that was bitten must go through over a week of fear and shots wondering if they will die. A vaccinated animal would be isolated at laws demand, but one that is not vaccinated would have to be put down (unfortunately) to ensure that the person who was bit gets the proper treatment.

Do I like that this might have to happen.... no... it seems barbaric and inhumane to the extreme... but I hate to say it, when it is a choice between a dog's life and a childs, I have to choose the child.

There is no winner in this case.

Posted by: Penny | May 20, 2006 1:36:57 AM

The law makes no sense to me -- why euthanize after the bite has already happened, when one could easily just have an observation period? Euthanizing accomplishes nothing at all, at least, nothing that was explained by the law. I don't know this for a fact, but it seems to me that a series of precautionary rabies vaccinations for the person who was bitten would probably be less expensive in the long run than the cost of euthanization + necropsy of the animal. Observation of the live animal would certainly be less expensive still.

Do you think it's just a scare tactic to force owners to adhere to vaccination recommendations, or to force owners to pay licensing fees? When I lived in Albuquerque, the city sent us a licensing bill every time we had a pet vaccinated against rabies -- there was some sort of reporting system in effect.

Posted by: Leigh-Ann | May 13, 2006 11:10:07 PM

Obviously Wyoming lawmakers are not allowing the facts to cloud their decision making process.
What a stupid and inhumane law!!!!

Posted by: Lee Schuler | May 12, 2006 6:33:23 AM

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