State is set to require rabies vaccine in dogs, cats, ferrets

December 27, 2011

By Staff

Under a rule due to go into effect Jan. 1, the state is requiring dog, cat and ferret owners to vaccinate the animals against rabies.

The rule is meant to reduce the number of rabies exposures in Washington. Statewide each year, several hundred people must receive a series of rabies shots because of possible exposure to the rabies virus.

The state Department of Health’s Zoonotic Disease Program said the rule requires owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to have pets vaccinated against rabies.

Many cities and counties require rabies vaccinations for some pets, but vaccinations have never been required by the state. Vaccinating pets is one of the most effective ways of preventing rabies.

In Washington, bats act as the primary source of rabies. Many bats test positive each year for rabies across the state.

If a person is exposed to rabies, he or she should seek treatment immediately.

The most recent human rabies cases in the state occurred in 1995 and 1997. The last domestic animal in Washington — a cat — tested positive in 2002.

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