Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2006*
National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. (NASPHV)
Rabies is a fatal viral zoonosis and a serious public health problem
(1). The recommendations in this compendium serve as
a basis for animal rabies prevention and control programs throughout the United States and facilitate standardization
of procedures among jurisdictions, thereby contributing to an effective national rabies-control program. This document
is reviewed annually and revised as necessary. These recommendations do not supersede state and local laws or
requirements. Principles of rabies prevention and control are detailed in Part I; Part II contains recommendations for parenteral
vaccination procedures; all animal rabies vaccines licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and marketed in
the United States are listed in Part III.
Part I: Rabies Prevention and Control
A. Principles of Rabies Prevention and Control.
- Rabies Exposure. Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in skin, or
onto mucous membranes from saliva or other potentially
infectious material such as neural tissue
(2). Questions about possible exposures should be directed to state or local public health authorities.
- Human Rabies Prevention. Rabies in humans can be prevented either by eliminating exposures to rabid animals or
by providing exposed persons with prompt local treatment of wounds combined with the administration of human
rabies immune globulin and vaccine. The rationale for recommending preexposure and postexposure rabies prophylaxis
and details of their administration can be found in the current recommendations of the Advisory Committee
on Immunization Practices (ACIP) (2). These recommendations, along with information concerning the current local
and regional epidemiology of animal rabies and the availability of human rabies biologics, are available from state
- Domestic Animals. Local governments should initiate and maintain effective programs to ensure vaccination of
all dogs, cats, and ferrets and to remove strays and unwanted animals. Such procedures in the United States have
reduced laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in dogs from 6,949 in 1947 to 94 in 2004
(3). Because more rabies cases are reported annually involving cats (281 in 2004) than dogs, vaccination of cats should be required. Animal shelters
and animal control authorities should establish policies to ensure that adopted animals are vaccinated against rabies.
The recommended vaccination procedures and the licensed animal vaccines are specified in Parts II and III of
the compendium, respectively.
- Rabies in Vaccinated Animals. Rabies is rare in vaccinated animals
(4). If such an event is suspected, it should
be reported to state public health officials, the vaccine manufacturer, and USDA, Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service, Center for Veterinary Biologics (Internet:
telephone: 800-752-6255; or e-mail: CVB@usda.gov). The laboratory diagnosis should be confirmed and the
virus characterized by a rabies reference laboratory. A thorough epidemiologic investigation should be conducted.
- Rabies in Wildlife. The control of rabies among wildlife reservoirs is difficult
(5). Vaccination of free-ranging wildlife or selective population reduction might be useful in some situations, but the success of such procedures depends on
the circumstances surrounding each rabies outbreak (see Part I.C. Prevention and Control Methods Related to
Wildlife). Because of the risk of rabies in wild animals (especially raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and bats), AVMA,
NASPHV, and CSTE strongly recommend the enactment and enforcement of state laws prohibiting their
importation, distribution, and relocation.
- Rabies Surveillance. Laboratory-based rabies surveillance is an essential component of rabies prevention and
control programs. Accurate and timely information is necessary to guide human postexposure prophylaxis decisions,
determine the management of potentially exposed animals, aid in emerging pathogen discovery, describe the epidemiology of
the disease, and assess the need for and effectiveness of oral vaccination programs for wildlife.
- Rabies Diagnosis. Rabies testing should be performed by a qualified laboratory that has been designated by the local
or state health department (6) in accordance with the established national standardized protocol for rabies testing
(7) should be accomplished in such a way as to maintain the integrity of the brain so that the laboratory can recognize
the anatomical parts. Except in the case of very small animals, such as bats, only the head or brain (including brain
stem) should be submitted to the laboratory. Any animal or animal specimen being submitted for testing should preferably
be stored and shipped under refrigeration rather than frozen to prevent a delay in testing and to facilitate
laboratory processing. Chemical fixation of tissues should be avoided to prevent significant testing delays and because it
may preclude reliable testing. Questions about testing of fixed tissues should be directed to the local rabies laboratory
or public health department.
- Rabies Serology. Some "rabies-free" jurisdictions may require evidence of vaccination and rabies antibodies
for importation purposes. Rabies antibody titers are
indicative of an animal's response to vaccine or infection. Titers do
not directly correlate with protection because other immunologic factors also play a role in preventing rabies, and
our abilities to measure and interpret those other factors are not well developed. Therefore, evidence of circulating
rabies virus antibodies should not be used as a substitute for current vaccination in managing rabies exposures or
determining the need for booster vaccinations in animals
B. Prevention and Control Methods in Domestic and
- Preexposure Vaccination and Management. Parenteral animal rabies vaccines should be administered only by or
under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Rabies
vaccinations may also be administered under the supervision of
a veterinarian to animals held in animal control shelters prior to release. Any veterinarian
signing a rabies certificate must ensure that the person
administering vaccine is identified on the certificate and is appropriately trained in
vaccine storage, handling, and administration and in the management of adverse events. This practice assures that a
qualified and responsible person can be held accountable to
ensure that the animal has been properly vaccinated.
Within 28 days after primary vaccination, a peak
rabies antibody titer is reached and the animal can be
considered immunized. An animal is currently vaccinated and is considered immunized if the primary vaccination
was administered at least 28 days previously and vaccinations have been administered in accordance with this compendium.
Regardless of the age of the animal at initial vaccination, a booster vaccination should be administered
1 year later (see Parts II and III for vaccines and procedures). No laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual
or biennial administration of 3-year vaccines following the initial series. Because a rapid anamnestic response is
expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.
a. Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets. All dogs, cats, and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies and revaccinated
in accordance with Part III of this compendium. If a previously vaccinated animal is overdue for a booster, it should
be revaccinated. Immediately following the booster, the animal is considered currently vaccinated and should be
placed on an annual or triennial schedule depending on the type of vaccine used.
b. Livestock. Consideration should be given to vaccinating livestock that are particularly valuable or that might
have frequent contact with humans (e.g., in petting zoos, fairs, and other public exhibitions)
(11,12). Horses traveling interstate should be
currently vaccinated against rabies.
c. Confined Animals.
1) Wild. No parenteral rabies vaccines are licensed for use in wild animals or hybrids (the offspring of wild
animals crossbred to domestic animals). Wild animals or hybrids should not be kept as pets
2) Maintained in Exhibits and in Zoological
Parks. Captive mammals that are not completely excluded from
all contact with rabies vectors can become infected. Moreover, wild animals might be incubating rabies when
initially captured; therefore, wild-caught animals susceptible to
rabies should be quarantined for a minimum of 6
months before being exhibited. Employees who work with animals at such facilities should
receive preexposure rabies vaccination. The use of pre- or postexposure rabies vaccinations for employees who work with animals at
such facilities might reduce the need for euthanasia of captive animals. Carnivores and bats should be housed in
a manner that precludes direct contact with the public.
2. Stray Animals. Stray dogs, cats, and ferrets should be removed from the community. Local health departments
and animal control officials can enforce the removal of strays more effectively if owned animals have identification and
confined or kept on leash. Strays should be impounded for at least 3 business days to determine if human exposure
has occurred and to give owners sufficient time to reclaim animals.
3. Importation and Interstate Movement of Animals.
a. International. CDC regulates the importation of dogs and cats into the United States. Importers of dogs
must comply with rabies vaccination requirements (42 CFR, Part 71.51[c]
[http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/animal.htm]) and complete CDC form 75.37 (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/pdf/cdc7537-05-24-04.pdf). The
appropriate health official of the state of destination should be notified within 72 hours of the arrival into his or her
jurisdiction of any imported dog required to be placed in confinement under the CDC regulation. Failure to comply with
these confinement requirements should be promptly reported to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine,
CDC (telephone: 404-639-3441).
Federal regulations alone are insufficient to prevent the introduction of rabid animals into the country
(17,18). All imported dogs and cats are subject to state and local laws governing rabies and should be currently
vaccinated against rabies in accordance with this compendium. Failure to comply with state or local requirements should
be referred to the appropriate state or local official.
b. Interstate. Before interstate movement (including commonwealths and territories) dogs, cats, ferrets, and
horses should be currently vaccinated against rabies in accordance with the compendium's recommendations (see Part
I.B.1. Preexposure Vaccination and Management). Animals in transit should be accompanied by a currently
valid NASPHV Form 51, Rabies Vaccination Certificate (http://www.nasphv.org/83416/106001.html). When
an interstate health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection is required, it should contain the same
rabies vaccination information as Form 51.
c. Areas with Dog-to-Dog Rabies
Transmission. The movement of dogs from areas with
dog-to-dog rabies transmission for the purpose of adoption or sale should be prohibited. Rabid dogs have been introduced
into the continental United States from areas with dog-to-dog rabies transmission
(17,18). This practice poses the risk of introducing canine-transmitted rabies to areas where it does not
4. Adjunct Procedures. Methods or procedures which enhance rabies control include the following:
a. Identification. Dogs, cats, and ferrets should be identified (e.g., metal or plastic tags or microchips) to allow
for verification of rabies vaccination status.
b. Licensure. Registration or licensure of all dogs, cats, and ferrets may be used to aid in rabies control. A fee
is frequently charged for such licensure, and revenues collected are used to maintain rabies- or
animal-control programs. Evidence of current vaccination is an essential prerequisite to licensure.
c. Canvassing. House-to-house canvassing by animal control officials facilitates enforcement of vaccination
and licensure requirements.
d. Citations. Citations are legal summonses issued to owners for violations, including the failure to vaccinate
or license their animals. The authority for officers to issue citations should be an integral part of each
e. Animal Control. All communities should incorporate stray animal control, leash laws, and training of
personnel in their programs.
5. Postexposure Management. Any animal potentially
exposed to rabies virus (see Part I.A.1. Rabies Exposure) by a
wild, carnivorous mammal or a bat that is not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.
a. Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets. Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be
euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should be placed in strict isolation for 6
months. Rabies vaccine should be administered upon entry into isolation or 1 month prior to release to comply
with preexposure vaccination recommendations (see Part I.B.1.a. Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets). Currently, no USDA
licensed biologics for postexposure prophylaxis of previously unvaccinated domestic animals exist, and the use of
vaccine alone will not reliably prevent the disease
(19). Animals with expired vaccinations need to be evaluated on a
case-by-case basis. Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are currently vaccinated should be revaccinated immediately, kept under
the owner's control, and observed for 45 days. Any illness in an isolated or confined animal should be
reported immediately to the local health department.
b. Livestock. All species of livestock are susceptible to rabies; cattle and horses are among the most frequently
infected. Livestock exposed to a rabid animal and currently vaccinated with a vaccine approved by USDA for that
species should be revaccinated immediately and observed for 45 days. Unvaccinated livestock should be
slaughtered immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should be kept under close observation for
6 months. Any illness in an animal under observation should be reported immediately to the local health department.
The following are recommendations for owners of livestock exposed to rabid animals:
1) If the animal is slaughtered within 7 days of
being bitten, its tissues may be eaten without risk of
infection, provided that liberal portions of the exposed area are discarded. Federal guidelines for meat inspectors require
that any animal known to have been exposed to rabies within 8 months be rejected for slaughter.
2) Neither tissues nor milk from a rabid animal should be used for human or animal consumption
(20). Pasteurization temperatures will inactivate rabies virus; therefore, drinking pasteurized milk or eating cooked
meat does not constitute a rabies exposure.
3) Having more than one rabid animal in a herd or having herbivore-to-herbivore transmission is
uncommon; therefore, restricting the rest of the herd if a single animal has been exposed to or infected by rabies might not
c. Other Animals. Other mammals bitten by a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Animals maintained
in USDA-licensed research facilities or accredited zoological parks should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
6. Management of Animals that Bite Humans.
a. Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets. Rabies virus may be
excreted in the saliva of infected dogs, cats, and ferrets during
illness and/or for only a few days prior to illness or death
(21--24). A healthy dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person
should be confined and observed daily for 10 days; administration of rabies vaccine to the animal is not
recommended during the observation period to avoid confusing signs of rabies with possible side effects of vaccine
administration. Such animals should be evaluated by a veterinarian at the first sign of illness during confinement. Any illness in
the animal should be reported immediately to the local health department. If signs suggestive of rabies develop,
the animal should be euthanized and the head shipped for testing as described in Part I.A.7. Any stray or unwanted
dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person may be euthanized immediately and the head submitted for rabies examination.
b. Other Biting Animals. Other biting animals which might have exposed a person to rabies should
be reported immediately to the local health department. Management of animals other than dogs, cats, and
ferrets depends on the species, the circumstances of the bite, the epidemiology of rabies in the area, the biting
animal's history, current health status, and potential for exposure to rabies. Prior vaccination of these animals may
not preclude the necessity for euthanasia and testing.
7. Outbreak Prevention and Control. The emergence of new rabies virus variants or the introduction of non
indigenous viruses poses a significant risk to humans, domestic animals and wildlife
(25--31). A rapid and comprehensive
response should include all or some of the following measures:
a. Characterize the virus at a national or regional reference laboratory.
b. Identify and control the source of the introduction.
c. Enhance laboratory-based surveillance in wild and domestic animals.
d. Increase animal rabies vaccination rates.
e. Restrict the movement of animals.
f. Evaluate the need for vector population reduction.
g. Coordinate a multi-agency response.
h. Provide public and professional outreach and
8. Disaster Response. Animals may be displaced during and after manmade or natural disasters and require
emergency sheltering (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/katrina/petshelters.asp). Animal rabies vaccination and
exposure histories are often not available for displaced animals and disaster response creates situations where animal
caretakers may lack appropriate training and previous vaccination. For these situations it is critical to implement and
rabies prevention and control measures to reduce the risk of
rabies transmission and the need for human post exposure
a. Coordinate relief efforts of individuals and organizations with the local emergency operations center prior
b. Examine each animal at a triage site for signs of
c. Isolate animals exhibiting signs of rabies pending evaluation by a veterinarian.
d. Ensure that all animals have a unique identifier.
e. Administer a rabies vaccination to all dogs, cats and ferrets unless reliable proof of vaccination exists.
f. Adopt minimum standards for animal caretakers that include personal protective equipment, previous
rabies vaccination, and appropriate training in animal handling (see Part I.C. Prevention and Control Methods Related
g. Maintain documentation of animal disposition and location e.g. returned to owner, died or euthanized,
adopted, relocated to another shelter, address of new location.
h. Provide facilities to confine and observe animals
involved in exposures (see Part I.A.1. Rabies
i. Report human exposures to appropriate public health authorities (see Part I.B.6. Management of Animals that
C. Prevention and Control Methods Related to
Wildlife. The public should be warned not to handle or feed
wild mammals. Wild mammals and hybrids that bite or
otherwise expose persons, pets, or livestock should be considered
for euthanasia and rabies examination. A person bitten by any wild mammal should immediately report the incident to
a physician who can evaluate the need for postexposure prophylaxis
(2). State-regulated wildlife rehabilitators may play
a role in a comprehensive rabies-control program. Minimum standards for persons who rehabilitate wild mammals
should include rabies vaccination, appropriate training, and continuing education. Translocation of infected wildlife
has contributed to the spread of rabies
(26--30); therefore, the translocation of known terrestrial rabies reservoir
species should be prohibited.
- Carnivores. The use of licensed oral vaccines for the mass vaccination of free-ranging wildlife should be
considered in selected situations, with the approval of the state agency responsible for animal rabies control
(5). The distribution of oral rabies vaccine should be based on scientific assessments of the target species and followed by timely
and appropriate analysis of surveillance data; such results should be provided to all stakeholders. In addition,
parenteral vaccination (trap-vaccinate-release) of wildlife rabies reservoirs may be integrated into coordinated oral
rabies vaccination programs to enhance their effectiveness. Continuous and persistent programs for trapping or
poisoning wildlife are not effective in reducing wildlife rabies reservoirs on a statewide basis. However, limited
population control in high-contact areas (e.g., picnic grounds, camps, suburban areas) may be indicated for the removal
of selected high-risk species of wildlife
(5). State agriculture, public health, and wildlife agencies should be consulted
for planning, coordination, and evaluation of vaccination or population-reduction programs.
- Bats. Indigenous rabid bats have been reported from every state except Hawaii and have caused rabies in more
than 40 humans in the United States to date
(32--37). Bats should be excluded from houses, public buildings,
and adjacent structures to prevent direct association with humans
(38,39). Such structures should then be made
bat-proof by sealing entrances used by bats. Controlling rabies in bats through programs designed to reduce
bat populations is neither feasible nor desirable.
Part II: Recommendations for Parenteral Rabies Vaccination Procedures
A. Vaccine Administration. All animal rabies vaccines should be restricted to use by, or under the direct supervision of
a veterinarian (40) except as recommended in Part I.B.1. All vaccines must be administered in accordance with
the specifications of the product label or package insert.
B. Vaccine Selection. Part III lists all vaccines licensed by USDA and marketed in the United States at the time
of publication. New vaccine approvals or changes in label specifications made subsequent to publication should be
considered as part of this list. Any of the listed vaccines can be used for revaccination, even if the product is not the same
brand previously administered. Vaccines used in state and local rabies-control programs should have a
3-year duration of
immunity. This constitutes the most effective method of increasing the proportion of immunized dogs and cats in
any population (41). No laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual or biennial
administration of 3-year vaccines following the initial
C. Adverse Events. Currently, no epidemiologic association exists between a particular licensed vaccine product and
adverse events, including vaccine failure
(42,43). Adverse events should be reported to the vaccine manufacturer and to
USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Center for Veterinary Biologics (Internet:
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/cvb/ic/adverseeventreport.htm; telephone: 800-752-6255; or e-mail: CVB@usda.gov).
D. Wildlife and Hybrid Animal Vaccination. The safety and efficacy of parenteral rabies vaccination of wildlife and
hybrids have not been established, and no rabies vaccines are licensed for these animals. Parenteral vaccination
(trap-vaccinate-release) of wildlife rabies reservoirs may be integrated into coordinated oral rabies vaccination programs as described in
Part I.C.1. to enhance their effectiveness. Zoos or research institutions may establish vaccination programs, which attempt
to protect valuable animals, but these should not replace appropriate public health activities that protect humans
E. Accidental Human Exposure to Vaccine. Human exposure to parenteral animal rabies vaccines listed in Part III does
not constitute a risk for rabies infection. However, human exposure to vaccinia-vectored oral rabies vaccines should be
reported to state health officials (44).
F. Rabies Certificate. All agencies and veterinarians should use NASPHV Form 51, Rabies Vaccination Certificate,
or equivalent which can be obtained from vaccine manufacturers or from NASPHV (http://www.nasphv.org) or CDC
(http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/Professional/professi.htm). The form must be completed in full and signed by
the administering or supervising veterinarian. Computer-generated forms containing the same information are also acceptable.
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* The NASPHV Committee: Mira J. Leslie, DVM, MPH, Chair; Michael Auslander, DVM, MSPH; Lisa Conti, DVM, MPH; Paul Ettestad, DVM, MS;
Faye E. Sorhage, VMD, MPH; and Ben Sun, DVM, MPVM.
Consultants to the Committee: Carl Armstrong, MD, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE); Donna M. Gatewood, DVM, MS, Center
for Veterinary Biologics, U.S. Department of Agriculture;
Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH, and Lorraine Moule, National Animal Control Association
(NACA); Charles E. Rupprecht, VMD, PhD, MS, CDC; John Schiltz, DVM, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); Dennis Slate, PhD, Wildlife
Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Charles V. Trimarchi, MS, New York State Health Department; Burton Wilcke, Jr., PhD, American Public
Health Association (APHA).
This compendium has been endorsed AVMA, CSTE, NACA, and APHA.
Corresponding preparer: Mira J. Leslie, DVM, MPH, State Public Health Veterinarian, Washington Department of Health, Communicable
Disease Epidemiology, 1610 NE 150th Street, MS K17-9, Shoreline, WA 98155-9701.
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Date last reviewed: 3/20/2006