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Compendium of Animal Rabies Control, 1990 Prepared by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc.

The purpose of these recommendations is to provide information on rabies vaccines to practicing veterinarians, public health officials, and others concerned with rabies control. This document serves as the basis for animal rabies vaccination programs throughout the United States. Its adoption should result in standardization of procedures among jurisdictions, which is necessary for an effective national rabies control program. These recommendations are reviewed and revised as necessary before each calendar year. All animal rabies vaccines licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and marketed in the United States are listed in Part II of this compendium; Part III describes the principles of rabies control.

Part I: Recommendations for Immunization Procedures

  1. Vaccine Administration All animal rabies vaccines should be restricted to use by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.

  2. Vaccine Selection In comprehensive rabies control programs, only vaccines with a 3-year duration of immunity should be used. The use of such vaccines eliminates the need for annual vaccination and constitutes the most effective method for increasing the proportion of immunized dogs and cats. (See Part II.)

  3. Route of Inoculation Unless otherwise specified by the product label or package insert, all vaccines must be administered intramuscularly at one site in the thigh.

  4. Wildlife Vaccination Vaccination of wildlife is not recommended since no rabies vaccine is licensed for use with wild animals. Neither wild nor exotic animals susceptible to rabies should be kept as pets. Offspring of wild animals bred with domestic dogs or cats are considered wild animals.

  5. Unintended Human Exposure to Vaccine Unintended inoculation may occur during administration of animal rabies vaccine. Such exposure to inactivated vaccines constitutes no rabies hazard. No human cases of rabies have resulted from needle or other exposure to a licensed modified-live virus vaccine in the United States.

  6. Identification of Vaccinated Dogs All agencies and veterinarians should adopt the standard tag system. This practice will aid the administration of local, state, national, and international procedures. Dog license tags should be distinguishable in shape and color from rabies tags. Anodized aluminum rabies tags should be no less than 0.064 inches in thickness.

    1. Rabies Tags.

    Calendar Year Color Shape 1990 Orange Fireplug 1991 Green Bell 1992 Red Heart 1993 Blue Rosette

2. Rabies Certificate. All agencies and veterinarians should use the National Association of the State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) form #50, "Rabies Vaccination Certificate," which can be obtained from vaccine manufacturers. Computer-generated forms containing the same information are acceptable. Part III: Rabies Control

  1. Principles of Rabies Control

    1. 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 appropriate passive and active immunization. The rationale for recommending preexposure and postexposure rabies prophylaxis and details of their administration can be found in the current recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP) of the Public Health Service (1). These recommendations, along with information concerning the current local and regional status of animal rabies and the availability of human rabies biologics, are available from state health departments.

2. Domestic Animals. Local governments should initiate and maintain effective programs to remove strays and unwanted animals and to ensure vaccination of all dogs and cats. Such procedures in the United States have reduced laboratory-confirmed rabies cases in dogs from 6,949 in 1947 to 128 in 1988. Since more rabies cases are reported annually involving cats than dogs, vaccination of cats should be required. The recommended vaccination procedures and the licensed animal vaccines are specified in Parts I and II of the compendium.

3. Rabies in Wildlife. The control of rabies among foxes, skunks, raccoons, and other terrestrial animals is difficult. Selective reduction of these populations may be useful when indicated, but the success of this procedure depends heavily on the circumstances surrounding each rabies outbreak. (See Section C. Control Methods for Wild Animals.) B. Control Methods for Domestic and Confined Animals

  1. Preexposure Vaccination and Management. Animal rabies

vaccines should be administered only by or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. This is the only way to assure the public that the animal has been properly vaccinated. Within 1 month after primary vaccination, a peak rabies antibody titer is reached and the animal can be considered immunized. (See Parts I and II for recommended vaccines and procedures.)

  1. Dogs and Cats. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated

against rabies at 3 months of age and revaccinated in accordance with Part II of this compendium.

b. Livestock. It is neither economically feasible nor justified from a public health standpoint to vaccinate all livestock against rabies. However, consideration should be given to the vaccination of livestock located in areas where wildlife rabies is epizootic, especially animals that are valuable and/or may have frequent contact with humans. (See Part II for recommended vaccines.)

c. Other Animals.

  1. Animals Maintained in Exhibits and in Zoological

Parks. No rabies vaccine has been licensed for use with wild animals. Captive animals not completely excluded from all contact with local rabies vectors can become infected. Moreover, such animals may be incubating rabies when captured. Exhibit animals susceptible to rabies should be quarantined for a minimum of 180 days. Employees who work with animals at such facilities should receive preexposure rabies vaccination. This practice may reduce the need for euthanasia of valuable animals for rabies testing after they have bitten a handler.

2) Wild or Exotic Animals. Because of the risk of rabies among wild animals (especially raccoons, skunks, and foxes), the AVMA, the NASPHV, and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists strongly recommend the enactment of state laws prohibiting the importation, distribution, relocation, or keeping of wild animals and wild animals crossbred to domestic dogs and cats as pets. Because the period of rabies virus shedding in infected wild or exotic animals (including ferrets) is unknown, confinement and observation of those animals that bite humans are not appropriate.

2. Stray Animals. Stray dogs or cats should be removed from the community, especially in areas where rabies is epizootic. Local health departments and animal control officials can enforce the pickup of strays more efficiently if owned animals are confined or kept on leash. Strays should be impounded for at least 3 days to give owners sufficient time to reclaim animals and to determine if human exposure has occurred.

3. Quarantine.

  1. International. Present PHS regulations (42 Code of

Federal Regulations (CFR) No. 71.51) governing the importation of dogs and cats are insufficient to prevent the introduction of rabid animals into the United States. All dogs and cats imported from countries with enzootic rabies should be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entry into the United States. CDC regulates the importation of these animals into the United States. The public health official of the state of destination should be notified within 72 hours of any animal conditionally admitted into his or her jurisdiction. The conditional admission into the United States of such animals is subject to state and local laws governing rabies. Failure to comply with these requirements should be promptly reported to the director of the respective quarantine center.

b. Interstate. Dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies according to the compendium's recommendations at least 30 days before interstate movement. While in transit, animals should be accompanied by a currently valid NASPHV Form #50, Rabies Vaccination Certificate.

4. Adjunct Procedures. Methods or procedures that enhance rabies control include:

  1. Licensure. Registration or licensure of all dogs and

cats may be used to control rabies by reducing the stray animal population. A fee is frequently charged for such licensure, and revenues collected are used to maintain rabies or animal control programs. Vaccination is an essential prerequisite to licensure.

b. Canvassing of Area. House-to-house canvassing by animal control personnel enforces vaccination and licensure requirements.

c. 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 animal control program.

d. Leash Laws. All communities should adopt leash laws that can be incorporated in their animal control ordinances.

5. Postexposure Management. Any animal bitten or scratched by a wild, carnivorous mammal (or a bat) not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.

  1. Dogs and Cats. Unvaccinated dogs and cats bitten by 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 and vaccinated 1 month before being released. Dogs and cats that are currently vaccinated should be revaccinated immediately and confined and observed for 90 days.

b. Livestock. All species of livestock are susceptible to rabies; cattle and horses are among the most susceptible of all domestic animals. Livestock bitten by a rabid animal and currently vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the USDA for that species should be revaccinated immediately and observed for 90 days. Unvaccinated livestock should be slaughtered immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should be closely observed for 6 months.

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 liberal portions of the exposed area are discarded. Federal meat inspectors will reject for slaughter any animal known to have been exposed to rabies within 8 months.

2) Neither tissues nor milk from a rabid animal should be used for human or animal consumption. However, since pasteurization temperatures inactivate the rabies virus, drinking pasteurized milk or eating cooked meat does not constitute a rabies exposure.

c. Wild or Exotic Animals. Wild or exotic animals bitten by a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Such animals currently vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the USDA for that species may be revaccinated immediately and placed in strict isolation for at least 90 days.

6. Management of Animals That Bite Humans. A healthy dog or cat that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days and 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 humanely killed and its head removed and shipped under refrigeration for examination by a qualified laboratory designated by the local or state health department. Any stray or unwanted dog or cat that bites a person may be killed immediately and the head submitted as described above for rabies examination. C. Control Methods for Wild Animals

The public should be warned not to handle wild animals. Wild carnivorous mammals and bats (as well as the offspring of wild animals cross-bred with domestic dogs and cats) that bite people should be killed and their brains submitted to the laboratory for rabies examination. A person bitten by any wild animal should immediately report the incident to a physician who can evaluate the need for antirabies treatment. (See current rabies prophylaxis recommendations of the ACIP (2,3)).

  1. Terrestrial Mammals. Continuous and persistent

government-funded programs for trapping or poisoning wildlife are not cost effective in reducing wildlife rabies reservoirs on a statewide basis. However, limited control in high-contact areas (picnic grounds, camps, suburban areas) may be indicated for the removal of selected high-risk species of wild animals. The state wildlife agency should be consulted early to manage any elimination programs in coordination with the state health department.

2. Bats.

  1. Rabid Bats. Rabid bats have been reported from every

state except Alaska and Hawaii and have caused rabies among humans in the United States. It is neither feasible nor desirable, however, to control rabies among bats by areawide programs to reduce bat populations.

b. Bat Proofing. Bats should be excluded from houses and surrounding structures to prevent direct association with humans. Such structures should then be made bat proof by sealing entrances.


  1. CDC. Rabies prevention. MMWR 1980;29:265-72,277-80.

  2. ACIP. Rabies prevention -- United States, 1984. MMWR 1984;33:393-402,407-8.

  3. ACIP. Rabies prevention: supplementary statement on the preexposure use of human diploid cell rabies vaccine by the intradermal route. MMWR 1986;35:767-8.

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