The short answer for this one is that Rabies Vaccination is required by law. The long answer is more important and more interesting. Rabies is caused by a virus. It is not a nice virus. It infects the nerves and brains of it’s victims and causes unpleasant symptoms like aggression, paralysis, profound neurological disturbance (affected animals and people have been reported to attack and mutilate themselves as well as others, oblivious to any pain), hypersalivation, restlessness, agitation, changes in personality, bizarre behavior, inability to close the mouth or eyelids, inability to eat or drink, and death. Once symptoms appear the disease is 100% fatal in a rather unpleasant way. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of, or even exposure to the infected saliva of a rabid animal. Any mammal can potentially get infected with and transmit rabies. Mammals at high risk of having rabies in this country include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, cats, dogs, and especially bats. Other animals, including livestock, may be infected. Fortunately for us rabies infection of humans is very rare in this country as a result of national and state laws requiring rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats; and quarantine of any animal involved in biting a human, or any animal suspected of being exposed to a rabid animal. In 1946 there were 22 cases of rabies in humans in the U.S, and more than 8000 cases in dogs. In 2004 in the U.S. there were 8 cases of human rabies reported, 94 cases in dogs, and 281 cases in cats (keep this in mind when handling stray cats), and over 8000 cases in wildlife and other domestic animals. Rabies vaccination saves human lives.
Although The State of Wisconsin does not require vaccination of cats the City of Tomah does require that cats and dogs over the age of 4 months to be vaccinated for rabies. Another part of the State law requires that any animal bite (of a person) treated by a health care professional be reported to the health department, and that the bite-er be quarantined for ten days with three veterinary examinations for good measure. If the bite-er is current on rabies vaccination this is only moderately inconvenient for the responsible humans. If said bite-er is not rabies vaccinated, or is even the teens-weensiest bit overdue the perpetrator gets to be a guest of a veterinary clinic or another certified facility (animal shelter) for the whole ten days (at cost of hundreds of dollars). A vaccinated animal that may have been exposed to a rabid animal simply gets re-vaccinated and observed. An un-vaccinated (or overdue!) animal gets to be quarantined for six months! These rules do apply to cats, even thought they are technically not required by the state to be vaccinated.
A few more fun rabies facts:
- The only way to tell for sure if an animal actually has rabies is a 10 day quarantine (it’ll be dead before the 10 days are up) or to send its brain (removed from its body) to a lab for testing.
- If you are tempted to shoot an animal that has bitten someone (something we don’t recommend) don’t shoot it in the head! Once the brain is damaged by a bullet it is impossible to examine the tissue for rabies, so the bite victim is going to be getting lots of painful vaccinations
- Rabies vaccination has to be done by a licensed veterinarian. Yes, We know you can buy the stuff over the internet, but it doesn’t count legally speaking in Wisconsin if you give it yourself.