This article is is for the benefit of those residing in Ontario, Canada. I hope to inform residents of what the law actually states in regard to rabies vaccinations, as opposed to what popular (mis?)conception may be. I write this in celebration (sort of) of a six month crusade to have this issue clarified within the veterinary community in Ontario. You may view the regulation online at:
The law states that a dog 3 months of age or over must be vaccinated against rabies, and then re-vaccinated (i.e. given a booster) by the date specified in the certificate of immunization that is issued for the dog.
Currently, standard veterinary practice is to vaccinate a dog against rabies at 3 or 4 months of age, then revaccinate at 1 year of age, then revaccinate yearly after that. What I want to address in this message is the issue of yearly rabies vaccination in Ontario, not necessarily the practice of vaccinating at 3 months and again at 1 year.
Most people are under the impression that yearly revaccination against rabies is the *law* in Ontario. This is not the case. Unfortunately, it seems that many veterinarians are equally misinformed. While most small animal practices in Ontario are using a three year rabies vaccine (most are using Imrab 3 by Rhone Merieux), they are administering it on a yearly basis. A friend and I conducted a random telephone survey of veterinary clinics in Toronto and the surrounding areas. If they were using the Imrab 3 vaccine (all of them were), we asked why they where administering it every year. Without exception, we were told “IT IS THE LAW”. When we cited the regulations that indicate otherwise, we were told “WE HAVE NOT *OFFICIALLY* BEEN INFORMED THAT YEARLY RABIES VACCINATION IS NOT REQUIRED BY LAW”.
Yearly revaccination against rabies is only required by law if a one year rabies vaccination is used which, by and large, is *not* currently the case in Ontario.
We followed up with Agriculture Canada to find out what rabies vaccines were licensed for use in Canada, then with the Ministry of Public Health Branch, and then with the OVMA (Ontario Veterinary Medical Association). It was confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that both the dog owning community and the veterinary community may not be aware of what the law actually states in this regard.
As a result, the OVMA has stated that they will be publishing an article clarifying this issue (i.e. if a 3 year rabies vaccine is administered, revaccination is *not* required by law for 3 years) in the November issue of Focus, the official journal of the OVMA.
If your dog has been vaccinated against rabies in Ontario within the last 2 years, chances are that a 3 year rabies vaccine was administered and that your dog does not have to be vaccinated for rabies this year or the next, depending on when the vaccine was administered. Following is a list of the rabies vaccines currently licensed for use in Canada as of 1997. You may want to check with your veterinarian to find out which vaccine was administered, and have your vaccination certificate adjusted accordingly.
- Trimune (Fort Dodge) – 3 years
- Annumune (Solvay Animal Health) – 1 year
- Rabvac-1 (Solvay Animal Health) – 1 year
- Rabvac-3 (Solvay Animal Health) – 3 years
- Imrab 3 (Rhone Merieux) – 3 years
- Imrab 1 (Rhone Merieux) – 1 year
- Endurall-P (Pfizer) – 1 year
- Rabguard-TC (Pfizer) – 3 years
- Dura-Rab 1 (ImmunoMed) – 1 year
- Dura-Rab 3 (ImmunoMed) – 3 years
- Defensor (Pfizer) – 3 years
- Rabdomun (Pfizer) – 3 years
- Rabdomun-1 (Pfizer) – 1 year
- Sentryrab-1 (Pfizer) – 1 year
- Prorab-1 (Intervet) – 1 year
- Prorab-3 (Intervet) 3 years
I am not trying to address the issue of whether a dog should or should not be vaccinated – that is a personal decision. Instead, I wanted to make sure that this information was available to those of you who live in Ontario and are concerned about the legalities of your decision.
Please note as well that other standard vaccinations, such as those for distemper and parvo, are *not* required by law in any shape or form. That is also a personal decision, and one best made by educating yourself on the matter. Be aware, however, that some veterinarians may choose not to treat animals that do not receive these vaccinations on a yearly basis.
For those of you who would like to approach your veterinarian on the issue of yearly rabies vaccination before the November issue of Focus is published, the Ontario regulation that contains the information cited above is the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Rabies Immunization R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 567.
Several of the veterinarians we contacted stated that it is their personal belief that the 3 year rabies vaccination is not effective for 3 years, and that they would continue to recommend yearly rabies vaccination. Again, this involves a personal decision on your part.
One last thing. Ontario Regulation 567/90 also allows a legal waiver for the rabies vaccination. It states “The owner or person having the care and custody of an animal that is in or has a physical condition that precludes the safe immunization or re-immunization of the animal against rabies is exempt from the requirement of this Regulation where (a) a statement of exemption is issued by a veterinarian with respect to the animal that sets out the reason why the animal cannot be immunized or re-immunized; and (b) the animal is controlled in such a manner as to preclude its being exposed to rabies.”
Please pass this information on to as many concerned dog owners in Ontario as you are able. The sooner this become public knowledge, the sooner dog owners in Ontario will be able to make informed decisions about re-vaccination their dogs for rabies.