Rabies is fatal! All mammals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. There are about 300 confirmed cases of Rabies in NJ every year! There were almost 50 cases of Rabies in Monmouth and Ocean County last year.
BUT MY PET DOESN'T GO OUTSIDE!
Even if your animal isn't ever "allowed" outside, accidents and escapes happen. Unfortunately, bats in the house, are way more common than anyone likes to think. Rabid wild animals behave erratically and are known to burst through screens and attack people and pets.
Owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. If you choose not to vaccinate your pet against other diseases, you're putting your pet's health at risk. But if you don't vaccinate your pet against rabies, you're putting your pet, your family and the public at risk.
A town's responsibility is to protect the public. When a town issues a license, it is essentially stating, "You the public, are safe from rabies, from this animal, for the duration of the licensing year." It can be frustrating when your pet's rabies vaccine is good until August, but the town insists it be valid until December. Remember, the town needs to protect "the public" and rabies is fatal.
ABOUT THE VACCINE
There are currently two valid rabies vaccines in the US for use in dogs and cats: Imrab by Merial and Defensor by Pfizer/Zoetis. Rabies vaccines can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian. The rabies vaccine is good for 1 year for puppies, kittens or any adult dog or cat for which there is no documented proof of rabies vaccination. The pet is NOT considered protected against rabies until 28 days after the vaccine was given. For previously vaccinated dogs and cats, the rabies vaccine is considered medically protective for 3 years. Again, the township's licensing laws to protect the public, supersede all.
WILL YOU SIGN AN EXEMPTION FORM?
Short answer? No. The rabies vaccine is consider extremely safe and effective. If your pet is currently undergoing chemotherapy, is currently having an episode of IMHA/IMTP or has some similar life-threatening illness, we can discuss the situation. Pet's age, concerns about over-vaccination and personal beliefs are not acceptable reasons to avoid rabies vaccines.
HOW ELSE CAN I PROTECT MY PET?
Keep your pet indoors or under your direct supervision. Don't allow your pet to engage with wildlife.
Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinate!
---Meredith L. Weltner-Sharin VMD