Zoonotic Disease Community:
Earlier this month we issued a news release regarding the state-wide requirement for rabies vaccinations for cats, dogs, and ferrets starting January 1st. The story received wide media coverage ranging from local weekly papers to television news and the associated press. During this time we have talked to many reporters fielding many questions.
The question we have been asked most frequently is: How is it enforced? I want to share some information with you on this topic to help clarify how this works.
At the state level there are statutes (laws) in the form of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and there are rules in the form of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). The legislature creates the RCWs and the agencies and boards create the WACs. The Washington State Board of Health (BOH) oversees state rules related to the Department of Health. Many people simply refer to RCWs and WACs interchangeably as state laws.
In the new rabies vaccination rule there is no enforcement at the state level. As with many BOH rules, this new rule provides local government with a regulatory tool to adopt to protect public health. Any penalties for not vaccinating would be the result of a violation of a local code. Many local jurisdictions already require proof of vaccination as a condition of pet license requirements.
The cost of a rabies vaccination ranges from about $7 to $20. Boosters are needed every three years.
I also want to make you aware of the decision matrix that is used state-wide by state and local health officials to evaluate suspected rabies exposures. It is located at http://www.doh.wa.gov/Notify/other/rabiesalg.pdf.
Pet vaccination is an inexpensive and important action people can take to help protect their pets, family and the public.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to contact me if you want more information.
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Wayne Clifford, Manager
Office of Environmental Health, Safety, and Toxicology
Pesticide Illness and Zoonotics Disease Surveillance and Prevention
Washington State Department of Health
PO Box 47846
Olympia WA 98504-7846
Improving People's Health by Reducing Exposures to Environmental Hazards