California

1. WHICH SPECIES ARE REQUIRED TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST RABIES?

Dogs only. However, there are regulations that address cats who bite a human or are exposed to rabies, at which point their vaccination status is a factor in how it is handled. Ferrets are illegal in California and there are no specific rabies laws/regulations on them. However, the California Compendium on Rabies gives direction for ferrets, but always notes that they are illegal and if quarantined after biting a human or exposure to rabies, they are to be reported at the end of the quarantine.

NOTE: The rabies requirements are for animals in “rabies areas” (not smaller than a county) as declared by the Director of the State Department of Health Services each year. [Title 17, CCR, §2606; and California Health and Safety Code, 121585] It should be noted also that “the Director has declared all 58 counties in California as ‘rabies areas’ every year since 1987.” [Investigation, Management, and Prevention of Animal Bites in California”, 3rd ed, April 2014, p 4]

NOTE: “The governing body of each city, city and county, or county shall maintain or provide for the maintenance of a pound system and a rabies control program for the purpose of carrying out and enforcing this section.” [California Health and Safety Code, 121690(e)] Any city, county, or city and county may enact rabies requirements that are more stringent than the state laws and regulations. Veterinarians need to be aware of local requirements. [California Health and Safety Code, 121695]

2. WHO IS LEGALLY AUTHORIZED TO ADMINISTER A RABIES VACCINE?

A California-licensed veterinarian or a RVT under veterinarian supervision. [California Health and Safety Code, 121690; Veterinary Practice Act, 2034-2036]
The veterinarian who signs the certificate has legal responsibility for the proper administration of the vaccine. [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.4.a]

3. WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL RECORD REQUIREMENTS FOR RABIES VACCINATION?

Veterinarians are required to maintain rabies vaccination records on individual patients for a period of 3 years [Title 16, CCR, §2032.3 (record keeping) and 2030.3 (Small Animal Vaccination Clinic) of the California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act]

4. WHAT ARE THE AGE REQUIREMENTS FOR RABIES VACCINATION?

What is the MINIMUM Age:
3 months of age. [Title 17, CCR, §2606.4.b.2]

California stipulates dogs ‘WILL BE VACCINATED BY…
4 months of age [see California Health and Safety Code, 121690(b) below:]

a) Every dog owner, after his or her dog attains the age of four months, shall no less than once every two years secure a license for the dog as provided by ordinance of the responsible city, city and county, or county. License fees shall be fixed by the responsible city, city and county, or county, at an amount not to exceed limitations otherwise prescribed by state law or city, city and county, or county charter.

(b) (1) Every dog owner, after his or her dog attains the age of three months or older, shall, at intervals of time not more often than once a year, as may be prescribed by the department, procure its vaccination by a licensed veterinarian with a canine antirabies vaccine approved by the department and administered according to the vaccine label, unless a licensed veterinarian determines, on an annual basis, that a rabies vaccination would endanger the dog's life due to disease or other considerations that the veterinarian can verify and document. The responsible city, county, or city and county may specify the means by which the dog owner is required to provide proof of his or her dog's rabies vaccination, including, but not limited to, by electronic transmission or facsimile.


5. FOLLOWING THE INITIAL RABIES DOSE, WHEN IS AN ANIMAL LEGALLY IMMUNIZED?

28 days. Regardless of the age of the dog at initial vaccination, a booster should be given 1 yr later, and thereafter, every 3 years. [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.4.d; and, Title 17, CCR, §2606.4.b.3]
NOTE: Only vaccines approved by the California Department of Health are recognized. A list of approved vaccines is found at the end of the California Compendium of Rabies. For dogs, only 3-Year rabies vaccine products are approved. No 1-Year vaccine may be used, even for the initial vaccination that must be revaccinated against rabies in one year. However, 1-yr rabies vaccines may be used for cats.

6. WHAT ARE THE STATE IMPORTATION REQUIREMENTS FOR RABIES VACCINATION?

Dogs over 4 months of age or older imported into California for any reason shall have a certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies with a vaccine that has been approved by the California Department of Health with a duration of at least 36 months (i.e. it must be an approved 3-yr rabies vaccine). For dogs over 1 yr old, the vaccination must have been administered within 30 months of importation, or within 12 months for dogs under 1 year of age. [Title 17, CCR, §2606.6 (Importation of Dogs)]

7. CAN A 3-YEAR RABIES VACCINE BE SUBSTITUTED FOR A 1-YEAR VACCINE?

In California, 1-year rabies vaccines are NOT recognized when vaccinating dogs. All rabies vaccinations for dogs, even the initial dose as a puppy, shall be with a vaccine with a 3-year duration of immunity. [California Health and Safety Code, 121690]

For cats, there are approved 1-year rabies vaccines, but no state laws requiring vaccination of cats (though local cities/counties may).

8. "OVERDUE" FOR RABIES VACCINE BOOSTER...

A. When is an animal considered to be “overdue”?
Not specified, but presumably, 1 day past the licensed duration of immunity.

B. What is the re-vaccination protocol for the “overdue” pet?
California only recognizes 3-Year rabies vaccines for dogs. (1-Year rabies vaccines may be used in cats). An overdue dog “should be vaccinated as soon as possible and the three-year booster schedule re-established.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.4.d]

C. Following re-vaccination, when is the “overdue” animal considered “currently vaccinated”?
The status of vaccination (current or overdue) is not indicated. The California Rabies Compendium states (in the sentence immediately before the directive to vaccinate overdue dogs), “… a dog is considered currently vaccinated immediately after receiving a booster vaccination.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.4.d]

9. CAN A RABIES ANTIBODY TITER BE USED TO ESTABLISH "IMMUNITY"?

NO. A rabies antibody titer does NOT represent a legal index of immunity in lieu of revaccination.

A rabies FAVN titer (Kansas State University, Rabies Laboratory) is only required when exporting dogs/cats to rabies-free countries or regions of the world that require a titer.

10. WHAT CONSTITUTES RABIES "EXPOSURE" IN A PET?

The California Code of Regulations (CCR), states quarantine regulations for an animal that has been bitten by or has been in intimate contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal. [Title 17, CCR, §2606(c)]

The California Rabies Compendium states, “Any animal bitten by, scratched by, or having direct contact with a wild mammal (especially bats and skunks) that is not available for rabies testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.3]

11. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF RABIES "EXPOSURE" IN A PET?

A. …IF THE PET IS CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
A currently vaccinated dog or cat “may be revaccinated immediately (within 48 hours)” and “quarantined in a place and manner approved by the local health officer for a period of 30 days following revaccination.”

For dogs, currently vaccinated means being vaccinated for rabies within the past 36 months, but not less than 30 days, with a vaccine approved by the Department.
For cats, currently vaccinated means (a) vaccinated within 1 year, but not less than 30 days, with a 1-year feline rabies vaccine, or (b) vaccinated within 36 months, but not less than 30 days, with a 3-year feline rabies vaccine.
[Title 17, CCR, §2606(c)]
Ferrets are not addressed in legislative documents, but directives are given in the California Rabies Compendium. It states that a currently vaccinated ferret, like dogs and cats, should be revaccinated immediately and placed in “strict isolation” for 30 days. However, the isolation of ferrets must be done at an animal control shelter or veterinary hospital. At the end of the isolation period, they “must be reported to the California Department of Fish and Game for disposition.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.3(a)]
NOTE: The California Rabies Compendium states “’strict Isolation’ must preclude contact between the isolated animal and other animals and the public. Any other dogs, cats, or ferrets for which contact with the bitten animal cannot be absolutely prevented during the isolation period should be held to the same restrictions for the entire isolation period.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.3(a)]

B. …IF THE PET IS NOT CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
Any unvaccinated animal that is exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid animal is to be either (a) euthanized; (b) quarantined in a place and manner approved by the local health officer for 6 months. [Title 17, CCR, §2606(c)]
The California Rabies Compendium adds that unvaccinated dogs, cats or ferrets should be immediately vaccinated at the time of the “strict isolation for six months.” The Compendium also states that euthanasia is “strongly recommended” for Juvenile animals due to higher susceptibility to rabies infection.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.3(a)]

12. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES FOR A PET THAT BITES A HUMAN?

A. …IF THE PET IS CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
Vaccination status of an animal is not a factor when a human is bitten.

Any animal that bites or otherwise exposes a human to potential rabies shall either (a) be “isolated in strict confinement” in a place and manner approved by the local health officer and observed for 10 days after the day of the bite or exposure; or, (b) shall be euthanized and tested for rabies. [Title 17, CCR, §2606(b)(2)]

Because ferrets are illegal in California, biting ferrets should be confiscated by the animal control agency with isolation in an animal control shelter or veterinary hospital. The ferret should be reported to the California Department of Fish and Game for disposition following the isolation. [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.2(c)]

Rabies or other vaccines should NOT be administered to the dog, cat or ferret during isolation. “If the bite is judged by the local health officer to be unusual or to represent an increased risk for rabies (e.g., unprovoked attacks, bites to the face, or considerable deep tissue damage), the animal should be euthanized and tested immediately.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.2(a)]

Guide dogs for the blind and dogs used in law enforcement shall not be quarantined if, 1) there is no evidence that the guide dog was exposed to rabies, it is kept confined on the premises of the owner, and kept available for examination; and 2) the bite of police dogs was done while on duty and the dog is kept available for examination. [California Health and Safety Code, 121680 (Guide dogs); and 121685 (law enforcement dogs)]

B. …IF THE PET IS NOT CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
Vaccination status of an animal is not a factor when a human is bitten. The response is the same whether the animal is currently vaccinated or not.

Any animal that bites or otherwise exposes a human to potential rabies shall either (a) be “isolated in strict confinement” in a place and manner approved by the local health officer and observed for 10 days after the day of the bite or exposure; or, (b) shall be euthanized and tested for rabies. [Title 17, CCR, §2606(b)(2)]

Because ferrets are illegal in California, biting ferrets should be confiscated by the animal control agency with isolation in an animal control shelter or veterinary hospital. The ferret should be reported to the California Department of Fish and Game for disposition following the isolation. [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.2(c)]

Rabies or other vaccines should NOT be administered to the dog, cat or ferret during isolation. “If the bite is judged by the local health officer to be unusual or to represent an increased risk for rabies (e.g., unprovoked attacks, bites to the face, or considerable deep tissue damage), the animal should be euthanized and tested immediately.” [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.2(a)]

Guide dogs for the blind and dogs used in law enforcement shall not be quarantined if, 1) there is no evidence that the guide dog was exposed to rabies, it is kept confined on the premises of the owner, and kept available for examination; and 2) the bite of police dogs was done while on duty and the dog is kept available for examination. [California Health and Safety Code, 121680 (Guide dogs); and 121685 (law enforcement dogs)]

13. CAN A VETERINARIAN EXEMPT RABIES VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS?

Yes. On an annual basis, a veterinarian may submit a request for an exemption to the local health officer. The veterinarian must be able to verify and document that a vaccination would endanger the dog’s life or other considerations. The veterinarian shall also submit a signed statement by the dog’s owner affirming that he/she understands the consequences and liability associated with the dog not being vaccinated. A dog that is given an exemption shall be considered unvaccinated. [California Health and Safety Code, 121690(b)(1-4)]

“A dog that is exempt from the vaccination requirements of this section shall, at the discretion of the local health officer or the officer’s designee, be confined to the premises of the owner, keeper, or harborer and, when off the premises, shall be on a leash the length of which shall not exceed six feet and shall be under the direct physical control of an adult. A dog that is exempt from the provisions of this section shall not have contact with a dog or cat that is not currently vaccinated against rabies.” [California Health and Safety Code, 121690(b)(5)]

14. AT WHAT AGE CAN RABIES VACCINATION BE DISCONTINUED?

This point is not specifically addressed in California law. However, States that do address this issue in the context of State/Local rabies laws or regulations stipulate that there no age at which rabies vaccination can be discontinued. Vaccination should be administered at the appropriate interval throughout life.

15. IS RABIES VACCINATION OF HYBRID SPECIES RECOGNIZED OR ALLOWED?

Vaccination of dog or cat hybrids is considered off-label, but is not prohibited in California. However, they are still considered “unvaccinated” and treated as “wild animals” when managing bites or possible rabies exposure. If they are potentially exposed to rabies, they should be euthanized. If they bite a person, euthanasia is recommended but local health officials have the prerogative to have the animal isolated for 30 days. [California Compendium of Rabies Control and Prevention 2012, Part I.B.4(h)]