Woman advocates for more time between rabies shots

HAWLEY, Minn. -- Jane Anderson believes too many veterinarians are not following the recommendations for rabies vaccinations, which costs pet owners money and risks the health of cats and dogs.

HAWLEY, Minn. -- Jane Anderson believes too many veterinarians are not following the recommendations for rabies vaccinations, which costs pet owners money and risks the health of cats and dogs.

Anderson said she first became aware of the issue when she moved here about six years ago to open Groom Room, a dog kennel and grooming business.

She noted dogs coming in that had a rabies vaccination certificate good for two years. She used the same vaccination for her own dogs, but her veterinarian issued a three-year certification.

Anderson said most modern vaccination labels state the inoculation is good for three years, while many veterinarians still require updates every two years.

She said many of her clients were not told about the three-year schedule, which violates consumer trust.


They were really shocked," Anderson said. "As consumers, we have the right for full disclosure."

Anderson joined forces in Minnesota with POWER Shots, a grassroots movement to educate and research vaccination shots. The group urged the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine to take a stance on two-year versus three-year vaccination requirements.

In 2012 the Minnesota board of Veterinary Medicine issued a recommendation that veterinarians follow the three-year schedule.

Anderson now hopes North Dakota will follow suit.

"Their code is really outdated," she said of North Dakota rules. "There are thousands of people paying for needless, unnecessary vaccinations. The problem is the dialogue with the (North Dakota) veterinarian board hasn't taken place and it needs to."

Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian in North Dakota, said the veterinarian board has not discussed the issue.

She said veterinarians are not trying to deceive pet owners. She said it is common for pet owners to lapse in the shot schedule and that may be a reason why North Dakota veterinarians use the two-year schedule.

Anderson said that reasoning is unacceptable.


"(The board) has to recognize it's not up to the veterinarian to decide when the drug is given by looking at someone and saying, 'You're going to be late,'" Anderson said. "Medicine has to be based on science."

At Prairie Winds Veterinary Center in Fargo, Dr. Alicia Wisnewski said the type of vaccination she uses depends on the animal. For cats, Wisnewski prefers to use a vaccination that has a one-year duration, but has been proven to be safer because it does not usually cause an adverse reaction. The same is not available for dogs, so Wisnewski said she will vaccinate at two or three years depending on the owner preference and label.

Wisnewski said other veterinarians may only appear to be on a two-year schedule because they send early shot reminders.

"A lot of veterinarians send out reminders a year ahead of time to make sure people get in to make sure the vaccination is done," she said.

Wisnewski also said some cities, such as Fargo, have ordinances that require the vaccinations more often.

"We go by what the vaccine label says. If we run into a city with specific rules, we address it at that point," Wisnewski said.

Dog owners in Fargo must license their pet each year. To do that, they must provide proof of current rabies shots. Fargo city ordinance states a dog's rabies vaccination must be updated every two years.

Fargo City Auditor Steve Sprague said the city is looking into whether its ordinance should be updated to reflect the three-year schedule.


Anderson said fewer vaccinations not only reduces the cost to pet owners, but can be better for the animal because some dogs can have an allergic reaction to the vaccination.

"Any vaccination at any time can provoke a reaction, but they are very, very infrequent," said Dr. Julia Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Wilson said her dogs are on the three-year vaccination schedule.

Anderson said she hopes the message of three-year vaccinations will spread in North Dakota.

She said it's not just a veterinary issue, but a consumer issue because veterinarians should inform clients if they are using a two-year schedule of vaccinations when a three-year schedule is recommended.

"It's not up to the veterinarian to make sure those vaccinations are up to date," Anderson said. "It's up to the owner."

Proposed legislation in Minnesota endorsed by the Board of Animal Health and Veterinary Medical Association will outline a three-year uniform schedule for vaccinations.

It may also charge owners overdue for a vaccination with a misdemeanor.


Anderson said the proposed law will not be heard by legislators until next year.

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