Rabies vaccine mandatory in Washington state for dogs, cats and ferrets

  • Written by Valley View Staff

SEATTLE—ACCES (Animal Critical Care and Emergency Services) reminds pet owners that as of January 1, 2012 all pet dogs, cats and ferrets in Washington state must be current on their rabies vaccination.

Often required at the city and county level, there has not been a law on the state level addressing this issue until now. With the enactment of WAC 246-100-197, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) aims to reduce the number of rabies exposures while raising awareness on the primary source of the disease.

One of the oldest and most deadly diseases, rabies once ran rampant throughout King and Pierce counties with numerous animals and people contracting the disease. Now with prevalent vaccinations and strengthened laws, there has been a dramatic decrease in animal rabies cases.

It is still important to note that most domestic pets are exposed in Washington through contact with wild bats. In the event that a pet owner or their pet comes into contact with a bat, they should seek treatment immediately as the disease is life-threatening.

“Pet vaccinations remain the most effective prevention of rabies,” said Dr. Elizabeth Davidow, DVM DACVECC. “People should talk to their local veterinarian about vaccinations and rabies prevention to ensure their pets are vaccinated for the New Year.”

For more information on vaccination enforcement, visit or contact local health department representatives.

About Rabies:

Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in warm-blooded animals.  Transferred from animal to animal, it most commonly is contracted by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure treatment is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

Early-stage symptoms of rabies are malaise, headache and fever, progressing to acute pain, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, depression and problems swallowing.  Finally, the patient may experience periods of mania and lethargy, eventually leading to coma. Most patients die within a few days or weeks of the onset.

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