Rabies Vaccination for Dogs Part 16

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Rabies Vaccination for Dogs – AB 272

Dog Getting Vaccinated

Ouch!

Specifics about ABA 272

 This bill was introduced by Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez to amend the California Health and Safety Code to change the age that rabies vaccinations are given to puppies from four months to three months in response to an increase in rabies-infected bats in Los Angeles County.

According to Dr. Dodds, the bill seeks to address a problem in the canine community that does not exist, as the California Department of Public Health’s statistics in Reported Animal Rabies Data make abundantly clear:  bats and other wildlife pose the major threat of rabies transmission to the public, not dogs under the age of four months. As it currently stands, the law requiring puppies to be vaccinated at four months of age is and has been effective at controlling rabies in California’s canine population.

Why should it matter to me if I don’t live in California?

Many times trends start in California and spread to the rest of the country.

How did this bill come about?

The idea for the legislation seems to have originated with the acting director of the public health group in L.A. County, Dr. Karen Ehnert, a veterinarian. Apparently there’s been some concern about the increase in cases of bat rabies in the county, but according to Dr. Dodds, the numbers don’t add up.

Dr. Ehnert has stated there has been an increase of bat rabies in the past couple years, and we don’t know why.  However, Dr. Dodds makes clear, there have been no cases of dog rabies in the Los Angeles area since 2010.  Further, there were only three cases of dog rabies in all of California from 2007 to 2010, and some of those involved animals that came in from out of state.

So I did my own investigation.  I personally called the office of Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez who introduced the bill to the legislature.  As of this writing, I am waiting for a response.

I personally called Dr. Karen Ehnert who is the acting director of Los Angeles County Veterinary Public Health program and was unable to speak with her.  However, I did speak with a Dr. Scott who said she would speak to Dr. Ehnert.  Dr. Scott also said that most likely, Dr. Ehnert will not speak to me because she would need to get permission from the External Communications Office to speak to someone outside the department, which means that Dr. Ehnert would only have to make a phone call or send an email to get that permission.  To date, I have not heard from anyone.

But I did watch a video by Dr. Emily Beeler from the same department about rabies http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/presentations/Rabies/SupportingFiles/ViewerWM7.html.  This video was made on February 17, 2011, and she said that the primary source of rabies in Los Angeles County was from bats.

Here’s a summary of what I believe are the pertinent points of what she said.

  • In 1937 there were 1,730 cases of rabid dog bites.
  • In 1956, a law was passed requiring dogs to be vaccinated against rabies, and the number of cases dropped dramatically.
  • In the entire United States, 1-3 people/year die from bat bites.
  • In 2006 and 2007, two people in California died from rabies, and they were bitten from animals outside the US but happened to die in California.
  • The animals most likely to carry rabies are bats and skunks.
  • 10-14% of the bats they test have rabies.
  • There has been an increase in importation of animals from other (third world) countries as well as smuggling them into the US.
  • The Los Angeles County Veterinary Public Health collaborates with Animal Control and over half of their reports come from Animal Control.
  • Anyone who has knowledge of a dog bite is legally reportable to Animal Control [even puppy bites from normal puppy teething!]
  • The person or animal must actually come in contact with bat saliva – simply being in proximity of a bat does not expose people to rabies.
  • Bat bites can go undetected because their teeth are so small.  They do not have to grab and hold but just break the skin.
  • The bites from dogs in Los Angeles County are a very low risk.  There have been no cases of dog rabies in California since 2010.
  • Bats and other wildlife are more likely to carry rabies than dogs.

This information was taken off the Veterinary Public Health Department’s own website http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/rabiesmap2013.htm

  • In 2011, a total of 38 rabid bats were found.  At the time, this had been the largest number of rabid bats detected in a single year since LA County began testing bats for rabies in the early 1960s. In most years, 8-10 rabid bats are discovered. The reason for the increase was unknown.

As of May 23, 2013, a total of 5 rabid bats have been found in Los Angeles County.  Most bats in nature do NOT have rabies.  The department has not reported any cases of either dog or cat rabies.

This information is from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/index.html

“The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific bodily excretions and tissues.

‘It’s important to remember that rabies is a medical urgency (sic) but not an emergency. Decisions should not be delayed.”

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Disclaimers – this is a *very* long article (almost 17,000 words) which I have loosely broken up into segments. This is the unedited final draft of the article in its entirety that I wrote in 2013 for a website that is no longer in existence. Not only is the final article no longer available, but I have had computer and Internet issues where some data may have been lost. I have spent several hours trying to piece it together and reformatting.

The article does not reflect current research as of 2018.  However, a good portion of the discussion is still applicable. If there is something that you believe was not true in 2013 or if I have made a mistake in reformatting, please let me know and I will do my best to fix it.

The reason it is posted here is because I was hosting a discussion on DogRead DogRead@yahoogroups.com about my book Doggie Dangers ( Kindle http://tinyurl.com/y8uc4gtc  Paperback http://tinyurl.com/y7vhce9t ), and the subject of rabies vaccines came up when we were talking about wildlife concerns for family dogs. We were discussing how to keep the yard safe from wildlife, but one person mentioned she had a bat fly into her house! Some of the participants requested that I post the article since it is no longer published.

And the final disclaimer – I am a dog trainer, not a veterinarian or medical researcher. Therefore, this article is for information only and not a substitute for any veterinary, medical, or other advice.

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