Wisconsin

FAQs

22 questions listed below address rabies and rabies vaccination laws/regulations. RESPONSES listed for each of the QUESTIONS within the FAQ section of this website have been validated by the State Public Health Authorities in the respective state.

Click on the question(s) below to reveal the state responses.

  1. Rabies vaccination is required for which species?

    • Dogs only.  

      However, there are laws regarding the management of BOTH dogs and cats that bite a human or are exposed to rabies, which take into account the vaccination status of the cat or dog. [Wisconsin Statutes (WS) 95.21(2)(a)] 

  2. Who is legally authorized to administer a rabies vaccine?

    • A licensed veterinarian, or “if a veterinarian is physically present at the location the vaccine is administered, by a veterinary technician.” 

    • [WS 95.21(2)(a)] 

  3. How long must a copy of the signed rabies certificate be maintained by the practice?

    • A certificate of rabies vaccination is to be kept by the veterinarian “until the date that the immunization expires or until the dog is revaccinated whichever occurs first.” [WS 95.21(2)(c)] 

  4. What are the age requirements for rabies vaccination in Wisconsin?

      • MINIMUM Age: A “Minimum Age” is not specifically stipulated in Wisconsin law. However, all rabies vaccines licensed for dogs/cats in the US today stipulate a minimum age of 12 weeks (3 months).

      • MUST BE VACCINATED BY: No later than 5 months of age and revaccinated within one year after the initial vaccination.” [WS 95.21(2)(a)] 

  5. Following administration of the initial dose of rabies vaccine, when is an animal considered to be "currently vaccinated"?

    • 28 days following administration of the initial dose of rabies vaccine. This applies regardless of the animal’s age at the time the initial dose is administered.

  6. What criteria constitute "currently vaccinated" against rabies?

    • The term “currently vaccinated” is commonly used within the context of state laws affecting rabies vaccination and control. Within the US, an animal that is “currently vaccinated” must meet EACH of the following criteria.  

      The animal must be vaccinated:

      • ...with a USDA licensed rabies vaccine.

      • ...with a vaccine that is within the labeled expiration date.

      • ...by an individual who is authorized to administer rabies vaccine.
        (NOTE: requirements vary significantly among states-see FAQ #2 for the requirement in this state).

      • ...at the appropriate age, interval, and dose (i.e., the FULL dose, as stipulated on the manufacturer’s label, must be administered). 

  7. Is there an extended-duration (beyond 3 years) rabies vaccine available today? (see also Question #10)

    • NO. 

      USDA licensed rabies vaccines available for administration to animals residing with the US are only 1-Year or 3-Year labeled vaccines. 4-YEAR labeled rabies vaccines have been discontinued and are no longer recognized in the US.  

      In Wisconsin, a veterinarian has the discretion to administer a 1-Year or 3-Year labeled rabies vaccine as THE INITIAL DOSE. However...re-vaccination (booster) is required 1 year following the initial dose...regardless of the animal’s age and regardless of the vaccine administered as the initial dose.  

      RE-VACCINATION of DOGS and CATS: When re-vaccinating (booster) against rabies, the duration that a dog or cat is considered “currently vaccinated” is strictly determined by the product label of the last vaccine administered (i.e., either 1 year or 3 years).  

      RE-VACCINATION of FERRETS: When re-vaccinating (booster) against rabies, the duration that a ferret is considered “currently vaccinated” is only 1 year 

  8. What are the rabies vaccination requirements for a dog/cat imported from another state or country?

    • Any dog brought into Wisconsin that is 5 months of age or older shall be vaccinated for rabies within 30 days after the dog is obtained or brought into the state unless the dog has been vaccinated and has a current certificate of rabies vaccination from Wisconsin or another state. [WS 95.21(2)(a)] 

  9. Can a 3-year labeled rabies vaccine be substituted for a 1-year labeled rabies vaccine when administering the initial dose?

    • Veterinarians practicing in Wisconsin may use discretion in the decision to administer a 1-Year or a 3-Year licensed rabies vaccine. However, if a 3-Year licensed rabies vaccine is used as the initial dose, the animal must be revaccinated 1 year later, regardless of the animal’s age at the time the initial dose was administered. 

  10. What are the re-vaccination requirements for a pet that is overdue for a required rabies booster? (4 parts)

    • When is an animal considered to be "overdue" for a rabies booster?

      • Dogs are to be revaccinated “before the date that the immunization expires as stated on the certificate of vaccination or, if no date is specified, within 3 years after the previous vaccination.” [WS 95.21(2)(a)] 

        An animal is considered “overdue”, and NOT currently vaccinated, if just one day beyond the labeled duration of the last rabies vaccine administered (1 year or 3 years).  

        The exception to this rule is that an animal is considered “overdue” after just one year following the initial rabies vaccine dose, regardless of the vaccine labeling.  

    • Following re-vaccination of an "overdue" animal, when is the animal considered to be "currently vaccinated"?

      • A dog or cat that is overdue for a rabies vaccine is considered “immediately currently vaccinated” at the time the animal is re-vaccinated. 

        This rule applies despite the time that has lapsed since administration of the previous dose of rabies vaccine.  

    • When re-vaccinating the “overdue” patient, which vaccine must be used (1-Year or 3-Year labeled vaccine)?

      • A licensed veterinarian may use discretion in the decision to administer a 1-Year or a 3-Year labeled rabies vaccine when vaccinating an animal that is overdue for rabies booster. 

    • When is the NEXT dose due?

      • Following re-vaccination of the ‘overdue’ animal, the duration of immunity is determined by the product able on the vaccine used, i.e., either 1 year or 3 years. 

  11. Can a "positive" rabies antibody titer substitute for a required booster dose?

    • NO. Within the United States, a “positive” rabies antibody titer is NOT recognized as an index of immunity (or protection) in lieu of vaccination and therefore does NOT substitute for a required vaccination.  

      NOTE: A “positive” rabies titer from a certified laboratory only means that the animal (at the time of travel) has been “adequately vaccinated” against rabies and meets the rabies vaccination requirement of that country/region at the time of importation. 

      For a current list of importation requirements by country see: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel or Search: APHIS Pet Travel 

  12. What constitutes rabies "exposure" in a pet?

    • WS 95.21(4)(a) discusses the right to quarantine a dog or cat that is thought to have bitten a person, be infected with rabies, or has been “in contact” with a rabid animal. Elsewhere, there is simply reference to exposure with no further definition of the term. 

      The Wisconsin Department of Health Services defines human “exposure” to rabies as (1) “All bites that penetrate or abrade the epidermis, regardless of anatomic location”; and (2) for non-bites: “The contamination of open wounds, abrasions, mucous membranes, or scratches with saliva or other potentially infectious material (neural tissue, cerebrospinal fluid, salivary gland tissue).” 

      [ https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/rabies/algorithm/algorithmcategories.htm  ] 

  13. Who has the authority to determine if a pet has been exposed to rabies?

    • State Response Pending 

  14. What are the consequences of rabies "exposure" in a pet that is "currently vaccinated"? (see also FAQ #6 and #13)

    • The dog or cat shall be revaccinated as soon as possible after exposure (within 96 hours of exposure). 

       

      “The custodian of an isolation facility or the owner shall keep the animal leashed or confined for 60 days.” [WS 95.21(4)(a)(c)] 

       

      The 60-day quarantine can be done on the owner’s premises. The animal must be held in such a way as to preclude contact with other domestic animals and with non-custodial humans. 

       

      If, during the observation or quarantine period, the dog or cat exhibits symptoms of rabies, the veterinarian shall notify the owner and the officer who ordered the quarantine. The veterinarian or “officer” (see below) shall kill the animal in a humane manner which avoids damage to the animal’s head. [WS 95.21(5)(d)] 

      NOTE: General quarantine regulations [WS 95.21(5)(a)]: 

      • An “officer” (police officer, local health officer, humane officer, or other person designated by the county, city, village or town) has the authority to order a quarantine. If the animal cannot be caught and as a last resort, or if the owner consents, or if the owner violates the quarantine requirements, the officer may kill or order to be killed the dog or cat. [WS 95.21(4)(a)(c)]

      • Dogs or cats ordered to be quarantined are to be delivered, within 24 hours of the order, to an “isolation facility” [WS 95.21(5)(a)] “Isolation facility” is defined as a HS shelter, veterinary hospital, municipal pound, or other place that is equipped with a pen or cage “which isolates the animal from contact with other animals.” [WS 95.21(1)(am)])

      • For currently vaccinated dogs or cats, the officer may order the quarantine to be on the owner’s premises. [WS 95.21(5)(a)]

      • If a dog that has an exemption from rabies vaccination (for health reasons) is ordered to be quarantined at an isolation facility, that facility may be a veterinary hospital. [WS 95.21(5)(a)] 

  15. What are the consequences of rabies "exposure" in a pet that is not "currently vaccinated"? (see also FAQ #6 and #13)

    • Three variations must be considered in determining management of the exposed animal.

      • Unvaccinated (ie, has NEVER been vaccinated against rabies):

        • “The custodian of an isolation facility or the owner shall keep the animal leashed or confined for 180 days...and, 

          ...the owner shall have the animal vaccinated against rabies between 155 and 165 days after the exposure to a rabid animal, unless the animal is exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated against rabies.” 

          [WS 95.21(5)(c)1] 

          The 180-day quarantine can be done on the owner’s premises. The animal must be held in such a way as to preclude contact with other domestic animals and with non-custodial humans. 

      • Is OVERDUE for a booster, and has documentation of prior vaccination:

        • State Response Pending 

      • Is OVERDUE for a booster, but DOES NOT HAVE documentation of vaccination:

        • State Response Pending 

  16. Does Wisconsin recognize the results of Prospective Serologic Monitoring (PSM) as valid documentation that a dog/cat has been previously vaccinated against rabies?

    • The State of Wisconsin currently does not authorize results of Prospective Serologic Monitoring to be used to assess prior vaccination status of an individual animal.

      Prospective Serologic Monitoring (PSM) is a defined testing protocol specifically indicated for use in dogs & cats (ONLY) that have been determined (by public health or rabies control authorities) to be “exposed” to rabies (See also FAQs #12 and #13 in this section) yet, the owner is unable to provide valid documentation of recent rabies vaccination.  

       The PSM testing protocol is available at:
      http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/NASPHVSerologicMonitoring2016.pdf 

      Refer to the Contact Information section for Wisconsin for further explanation on PSM.

  17. What action is required if an animal that is "currently vaccinated" bites a person? (see also FAQ #6)

    • Any dog or cat that bites a human may be quarantined on the owner’s premises if the animal is currently vaccinated. 

      “...the owner shall keep the animal under strict isolation under the supervision of a veterinarian for at least 10 days after the incident occurred.” ... “Supervision of a veterinarian includes, at a minimum, examination of the animal on the first day of isolation, on the last day of isolation and on one intervening day.” [WS 95.21(5)(b)] 

      Rabies vaccinations are not to be administered before or during the observation period (whether previously vaccinated or not). Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Handout for pet owners on “Wisconsin Quarantine Requirements for Dogs or Cats that have Bitten a Person” 

      https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/rabies/algorithm/quarantinefactshandout.htm  

      (NOTE: THE LOCATION IN WHICH THE ANIMAL IS QUARANTINED MAY BE DETERMINED BY LOCAL RABIES CONTROL AUTHORITIES). 

  18. What action is required if an animal that is "not currently vaccinated" bites a person? (see also FAQ #6)

    • Any unvaccinated dog or cat at bites a person shall be quarantined at a designated isolation facility (eg, veterinary hospital or animal shelter) for 10 days. The animal shall be examined by a veterinarian on the first and last day of isolation, and also one intervening day. 

      NOTE: The Wisconsin Dept of Health Services Handout for pet owners on “Wisconsin Quarantine Requirements for Dogs or Cats that have Bitten a Person” further interprets the Wisconsin Statutes as saying that ALL unvaccinated dogs or cats that bite a person shall be quarantined under strict isolation at an “isolation facility”. (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/rabies/algorithm/quarantinefactshandout.htm

      (NOTE: THE LOCATION IN WHICH THE ANIMAL IS QUARANTINED MAY BE DETERMINED BY LOCAL RABIES CONTROL AUTHORITIES). 

  19. As a licensed veterinarian, do you have the authority to exempt an animal from the legal requirement to be vaccinated against rabies? (eg., for medical reasons)

    • Yes.  

      “A city, village, or town may exempt the owner of a dog from the requirement to have the dog vaccinated against rabies for a year based on a letter from a veterinarian stating that vaccination is inadvisable because of a reaction to a previous vaccination, a physical condition, or a regimen of therapy that the dog is undergoing. The city, village, or town shall require the owner to provide a new letter for each year in which the owner seeks an exemption.” [WS 95.21(9)(d)] 

  20. At what age is it no longer necessary to vaccinate an animal against rabies?

    • Within states that require rabies vaccine be administered, re-vaccination is required throughout life at the appropriate interval for the species as required by State or local laws/regulations. Exemption is not authorized on the basis of age. 

  21. Is rabies vaccination of a hybrid or exotic pet allowed or recognized?

    • The State of Wisconsin does not restrict administration of rabies vaccine to hybrid animal species. However, in the event a vaccinated hybrid pet is exposed to rabies, or bites a person, the animal will not be considered to be immunized. REASON: there are no rabies vaccines specifically tested in or licensed for hybrid species. 

  22. At the State level, what authority does the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control carry?

    • The Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control is published by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. Recommendations outlined in the latest version of the Compendium serve as a basis for animal rabies prevention and control programs throughout the United States and facilitate standardization of procedures among jurisdictions. As published, the Compendium is not a statutory document. 

      NOTE: many (but not all) States have recently revised rabies laws/regulations by citing designated recommendations outlined in the latest version of the Compendium. Where cited in law, published recommendations do serve as the legal basis for patient management decisions made in practice as they concern rabies and rabies vaccination.  

      Compendium recommendations, if included as legal requirements for this state, are reflected in the FAQs listed within this section.  

Wisconsin

Public Health Contact

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*State Validation Pending

State Public Health Veterinarian

Racheel Klos, DVM, MPH
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Public Health
1 W. Wilson Street, Room 272
Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 608-266-2154

rachel.klos@wi.gov

Wisconsin

Rabies Surveillance

Confirmed Cases of Rabies in Wisconsin

Year 2016 2017 2018 2021
DOMESTIC-TOTAL 0 0 0 0
Dog 0 0 0 0
Cat 0 0 0 0
Ferret 0 0 0 0
WILDLIFE-TOTAL 29 28 25 29
Skunk* 0 0 0 29
Bat 29 28 25 N/A

*Primary reservoir host in the state

Rabies surveillance in the United States (2018-2021)
Ma X, et al. From the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Published in:  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
(2018 data):  256(2):195-208 (Jan 15, 2020)
(2019 data):  258(11):1205-1220 (Jun 1, 2021)
(2020 data):  260(10):1157-1165 (July 2022)
(2021 data): 261(7):1045-1053 (July 2023)

Wisconsin

Rabies References

National References
  1. Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. JAVMA March 1, 2016. Vol 248. No 5, pp. 505-517. Click here to view online.
  2. Rabies: a neglected zoonotic disease. World Health Organization. 2013. Click here to view online.
  3. Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2011. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. Released May 31, 2011. Click here to view online.
  4. Wasik B and Murphy M. RABID A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Viking (Penguin Group), New York, 2012.
  5. The Rabies Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University. Click here to view online.
  6. Greene CE. Rabies and other Lyssavirus infections. Chapt 20 in CE Greene (ed): Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. 4th Ed. Elsevier-Saunders, St. Louis, 2012, pp. 179-197.