Update on the Three-Year Rabies Booster for Dogs

Inching toward the three-year interval nationwide.
By Lisa Wogan, February 2009, Updated February 2015

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) asked its state legislature to extend the legally prescribed interval between canine rabies vaccines from one to three years, and on February 16, the extension passed. Act 159, as it’s now known, reads as follows: All dogs and cats shall be vaccinated against rabies annually or as required by the State Board of Health [italics added for emphasis].

Nothing’s simple, though. According to the ADH, “the Administrative Procedures Act for changing rules and regulations established by the State Board of Health will take some time. Until these rules and regulations are changed, the requirement will remain for dogs and cats to receive their rabies vaccinations annually.” (Alabama remains the only state with a formal one-year vaccination requirement, although across the country, some municipalities, such as Wichita, still have annual ordinances on the books.)

Arkansas’s public health veterinarian told the Associated Press the decision was based on research demonstrating that rabies immunity lasts at least three years. Proponents of extensions, such as Kris L. Christine, say the science actually reveals that boosters are not only redundant but carry risks for significant adverse reactions including autoimmune diseases, aggression and fibrosarcomas. Christine is the founder and of the Rabies Challenge Fund, which is currently helping to finance challenge studies to determine the long-term duration of the only canine vaccine required by law.


Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 53: Mar/Apr 2009

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of several books including Dog Park Wisdom.