FRANKFORT, KY. -The Kentucky legislature voted to mandate rabies vaccinations for the state's large cat population.
The law was lauded and lobbied for by the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association (KVMA) and other animal groups who pushed
for more thorough rabies control methods.
"We wanted to make people aware that their cats should be vaccinated," says Jim Weber, DVM, MBA, immediate past president
of KVMA. "The law gives more validity than just saying cats need to be vaccinated."
People are more likely to have their pets inoculated if there is an incentive. If a pet owner is found not to have their animal
rabies vaccinated, the pet will be impounded and owner fined up to $100.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies which
helped push the case in the legislature.
Weber explains the state has many barn cats and the KVMA wanted to include language in the law that would help protect this
exposed population of cats.
"The law states a reasonable effort to catch barn cats must be made to get them vaccinated," he explains.
"Statistics consistently show cats as being reported rabies positive more often than dogs, although many states still have
laws from the 1950s on the books," says Cathleen Hanlon, VMD, Ph.D., veterinary medical officer for the CDC. Original rabies
laws generally specified canines as required to be vaccinated with no mention of felines. The latest statistic notes to every
one canine rabies case, there are three in cats, says Dr. John Krebs, public health scientist with the CDC. Krebs says statistics
are published annually (Dec. 15) in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and are pretty consistent in the contamination ratio between dogs and cats.
"Since cats tend to roam more freely than dogs, often going out at night, they come into contact with the wildlife that may
have rabies such as skunks and raccoons," Hanlon says. "This is why it is so important for cats to be rabies vaccinated."
Other states have already included cats in their rabies laws, including Alabama, according to Joseph B. Lombardo, DVM, and
public health veterinarian. In fact Alabama is one of the three states that require annual rabies vaccinations (the others
being Louisiana and Arkansas), Lombardo adds.
Rabies laws are largely dependent on state law and municipalities. The manner in which laws are written and enforced vary
even within the state.
State veterinarians confirmed that Alaska and Louisiana laws also require cats to be rabies vaccinated once the animal is
3 months old.
Rhode Island's rabies law was initiated in 1956, requiring people living in towns an cities to vaccinate their dogs. In 1998,
an amendment was made to include cats, according to the state's Web site.
"Veterinarians should be aware of the rabies vaccine history before proceeding with treatment," Weber says. "Even if there
is a rabies law in the area, they are not always strictly enforced."