On April 24, a 6 year old plott hound called Captain got into a tangle with a raccoon in the woods at his NC home. The raccoon tested positive for rabies. Captain’s owner took him to the vet for a booster shot on his rabies, even though he was already current. One month later, Captain exchanged pleasantries with a second raccoon who also tested positive for rabies. Captain’s owner called the vet for advice and was reportedly told that since the dog had just been boostered one month earlier, there was no need for another vaccine.
Unfortunately, the vet’s recommendation put Captain at odds with the Mecklenburg Co health department because NC law does not specifically mention how to handle a vaccinated dog post exposure who was just boostered one month prior:
State law requires that every single time a pet comes into contact with a rabid animal you must take it to the vet for a booster shot within five days of the incident. Or your pet will be taken from you.
Yesterday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg ACC seized Captain and advised the owner he has 3 days to choose whether to have Captain killed or to pay for an expensive 6 month quarantine. The owner does not have the money to pay for the quarantine but does not want his beloved pet killed. He started a GoFundMe page to try to raise money for the quarantine bill.
I tried searching online for rabies vaccination information that would be relevant to this case but didn’t find anything. Post exposure booster of rabies vaccine does seem to be generally recommended for dogs but I could not find a recommendation regarding two exposures in one month’s time. My layman’s understanding of how vaccines work is that even if Captain had received an additional booster after the encounter with the second raccoon, it would not have boosted his immunity.
An interview with rabies researcher Dr. Ronald Schultz does not specifically address the question of revaccinating dogs post exposure but does offer this general bit of information which may be relevant:
There is absolutely no scientific reason for anyone to vaccinate an animal more often than every 3 years with products that are licensed by the USDA to be given at 3 year intervals.
Re-vaccinating that animal more frequently will not enhance […] protection against rabies.
It seems to me that Captain’s vet’s opinion, on which the owner relied, should be taken into consideration by the local health department in Captain’s case. The strict interpretation of the law that the health department appears to be utilizing would dictate that a dog who received a rabies vaccine then got taken home and came into contact with a rabid animal would have to turn around and be taken back to the clinic for another rabies vaccine in order to avoid being seized. I am not sure this interpretation is based in science or doing anything to protect public health. No pet, including Captain, should have to die because of a poorly written and/or poorly interpreted rabies law.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)