Rabies Information for Washington State

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

Owners of dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to have them immunized against rabies in Washington.

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

Licensed veterinarians are authorized to administer the rabies vaccine.

Also, WAC 246-935-050(8) authorizes veterinary technicians and unregistered
assistants to administer the vaccine under the direct supervision of the veterinarian.

“Direct supervision” means the veterinary supervisor is on the premises, is quickly and easily available and the animal patient has been examined by a veterinarian at such times as acceptable veterinary medical practice requires, consistent with the particular delegated animal health care task.

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

WAC 246-935-050(9) clarifies that the signed rabies certificate is part of the medical record. Records must be maintained for 3 years from the last treatment or examination of the patient (WAC 246-933-320(7)(e)).

4. WHAT ARE THE AGE REQUIREMENTS FOR RABIES VACCINATION?

Minimum Age: 12 weeks of age is the minimum in Washington.

Must be “vaccinated by…” age: Washington does not specify a defined age by which an animal must be vaccinated against rabies. However, regardless of the animal’s age at the time of the initial rabies vaccination, a second dose must be administered not later than 1 year later.

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

Washington recognizes recommendations outlined in the current version of the Rabies Compendium which states: within 28 days after initial vaccination, a peak rabies virus antibody titer is expected, and the animal can be considered immunized.

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

For small animals, importation regulations can be found in WAC 16-54-170:

Dogs, cats, and ferrets—Importation and testing requirements:

(1) Dogs, cats, or ferrets entering Washington State require a certificate of veterinary inspection.
(2) The certificate of veterinary inspection for dogs, cats, or ferrets must identify each animal and certify that each animal at the time of entry is current on rabies vaccination according to the manufacturer’s label, and does not originate from an area under quarantine for rabies.
(3) Dogs six months of age or older must be tested negative for heartworm or are currently on a heartworm preventative.

Exemptions to import health requirements:
(4) Dogs, cats, or ferrets less than ninety days of age do not require a rabies vaccination.
(5) Dogs, cats, or ferrets that are family pets and have current rabies vaccination certificates and are traveling with their owners with no sale, trade, or other change of ownership intended are exempt from a certificate of veterinary inspection.

Exemptions to import test requirements:
(6) Dogs that have been owned by the same owner for more than one month prior to entering the state, and are not going to be sold or have a change of ownership, and are traveling with their owner are exempt from the heartworm test requirement.

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

Although not specifically addressed in Washington Administrative Code, it may be assumed that a veterinarian can use discretion in administering a 1-Year or a 3-Year labeled rabies vaccine.

However, if a 3-Year labeled rabies vaccine is administered to an animal as the INITIAL rabies vaccine, a booster dose is still required within 1 year.

8. “OVERDUE” FOR RABIES VACCINE BOOSTER…

A. When is an animal considered to be “overdue”?
Although not specifically addressed in Washington Administrative Code, veterinarians should assume that an animal is “overdue” for a rabies vaccine if just 1 day beyond the labeled duration of immunity (1 year or 3 years) of the product used.

(The exception in this case is an animal is considered ‘overdue’ for a rabies booster if more than 1 year following the INITIAL dose, even if a 3-Year rabies vaccine was administered as the initial dose.)

B. What is the re-vaccination protocol for the “overdue” pet?
Veterinarians may use discretion in administering either a 1-Year or a 3-Year Labeled rabies vaccine.

Following administration of a rabies booster to an animal that was overdue for vaccination, the next dose is based on the labeled duration of immunity of the product used, i.e. either 1 year or 3 years.

C. Following re-vaccination, when is the “overdue” animal considered “currently vaccinated”?
Based on recommendations outlined in the Rabies Compendium, animals that are overdue for a rabies booster are considered “immediately currently vaccinated” following administration of a booster dose, regardless of the time elapsed since the last dose.

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

No. In the State of Washington, a rabies antibody titer (FAVN) is not a legal index of immunity in lieu of revaccination.

A rabies FAVN titer (Kansas State University, Rabies Laboratory) that may be required when exporting dogs/cats to rabies-free countries or regions of the world that require a titer, provides serological evidence of prior vaccination, not protection.

10. WHAT CONSTITUTES RABIES “EXPOSURE” IN A PET?

WAC 246-100-197 refers to rabies “exposure” in animals. Specific procedures affecting the management of an exposed pet may be determined on case-by-case basis.

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

A. …IF THE PET IS CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
– Whether the exposure is either “known” or “suspected”, the animal should obtain immediate veterinary care.
– The animal should immediately be revaccinated with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine.
– The animal must be kept under the owner’s control and observed for 45 days from the date of the suspected or known exposure.

B. …IF THE PET IS NOT CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
There are two (2) reasons an animal is considered NOT “currently vaccinated”; quarantine ordinances may vary depending on circumstances:

OPTION 1: NO HISTORY/DOCUMENTATION OF PRIOR RABIES VACCINATION:

Applies to dogs, cats, and ferrets:

– Immediate euthanasia…or (if the owner declines)
– Quarantine:
– – -Provide necessary veterinary care.
– – -Immediately vaccinate with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine.
– – -Confinement and observation (to preclude human contact) for signs of illness in a manner considered appropriate by the Local Health Officer for 4 months from the time of exposure; at least 6 months for ferrets from the time of exposure.

OPTION 2: ANIMAL WAS PREVIOUSLY VACCINATED BUT WAS “OVERDUE” FOR RE-VACCINATION AT THE TIME OF EXPOSURE:

NOTE: Washington, along with several other States, has enacted quarantine regulations for rabies-exposed animals that are OVERDUE for vaccination AND have valid documentation of prior rabies vaccination vs. those that are OVERDUE, only claim that the animal was currently vaccinated, BUT HAVE NO DOCUMENTATION to support prior rabies vaccination.

• If OVERDUE with valid documentation of prior rabies vaccination:

– Provide immediate veterinary care.
– Immediately vaccinate with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine.
– The animal will be kept under the owner’s control and observed for 45 days from the date of the suspected or known exposure.

• If OVERDUE but WITHOUT valid documentation of prior rabies vaccination, 2 additional options are available:

Option #1: Manage the animal as a non-vaccinate:

– Immediate euthanasia…or (if the owner declines)
– Quarantine:
— Provide necessary veterinary care.
— Immediately vaccinate with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine.
— Confinement and observation for signs of illness in a manner considered
appropriate by the Local Health Officer for 4 months from the time of
exposure; at least 6 months for ferrets from the time of exposure.

Option #2: Client may elect the Prospective Serologic Monitoring protocol

– Provide necessary veterinary care. The animal must be examined within the first 96 hours following the exposure.
– Collect the FIRST blood (1-2 mL of serum required) sample and Vaccinate
immediately with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine.
– Collect the SECOND blood (1-2 mL of serum required) sample between 5 and 7 days later (this interval is strictly defined and must be adhered to).
– Submit BOTH serum samples at the same time to a laboratory that is certified to perform a RFFIT test for rabies virus neutralizing antibody, eg, Kansas State
University Rabies Laboratory. Serum must be frozen if stored for more than 7 days.
– The animal must be confined and observed for signs of illness in a manner considered appropriate by the Local Health Officer until the test results are known and interpreted to have demonstrated an “adequate anamnestic response”.

POSITIVE Results: Confinement is limited to 45 days from the time of the known or suspected exposure.

“Positive” test results mean:

– a 2-fold or greater rise in titer between the first and second samples, AND…
– results of the second sample must be above 0.5 IU/mL.

NEGATIVE Results: Quarantine (to preclude human contact) will be for 4 months from the time of known or suspect exposure. If signs of illness develop during the confinement period, the animal may be euthanized and tested for rabies.

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

A. …IF THE PET IS CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
Vaccination status of the animal that bites a human is not a consideration in the management of the animal.

Animal bites to humans are to be reported to the Local Health Officer if rabies exposure is suspected. Regardless of the immunization status, the dog, cat, or ferret will be ordered to be confined in a manner the Local Health Officer considers appropriate and observed daily for at least 10 days. Any signs of illness must be reported to the Local Health Officer at which time the decision may be made to euthanize and test for rabies.

Stray or unwanted dogs, cats, or ferrets may be euthanized immediately and tested for rabies.

Hybrid species and other non-livestock mammals may be euthanized immediately and tested for rabies.

B. …IF THE PET IS NOT CURRENTLY VACCINATED?
Vaccination status of the animal that bites a human is not a consideration in the management of the animal.

Animal bites to humans are to be reported to the Local Health Officer if rabies exposure is suspected. Regardless of the immunization status, the dog, cat, or ferret will be ordered to be confined in a manner the Local Health Officer considers appropriate and observed daily for at least 10 days. Any signs of illness must be reported to the Local Health Officer at which time the decision may be made to euthanize and test for rabies.

Stray or unwanted dogs, cats, or ferrets may be euthanized immediately and tested for rabies.

Hybrid species and other non-livestock mammals may be euthanized immediately and tested for rabies.

13. CAN A VETERINARIAN EXEMPT RABIES VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS?

Questions regarding rabies vaccination exemption in Washington are handled on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the State Public Health Veterinarian.

Medical reasons for the proposed exemption are to be recorded in the permanent record and the owner is to be advised of potential public health implications; the animal may not be able to travel out of state, be housed in a boarding facility or obtain a local license if the exposed pet has never been vaccinated or is not currently vaccinated against rabies.

14. AT WHAT AGE CAN RABIES VACCINATION BE DISCONTINUED?

There is no age limitation in those species for which the State requires rabies vaccination. Vaccination should be conducted at the appropriate interval throughout the life of the animal.

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

No. Although Washington does not restrict vaccination of hybrid dogs/cats against rabies, because there are no rabies vaccines licensed for administration to hybrid dogs/cats, hybrid animals that are vaccinated against rabies will not be considered immunized by the State of Washington.

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