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State Requirements for Rabies-Related Animal Control

Buss, Sarah N. PhD; Eidson, Millicent MA, DVM, DACVPM (Epi)

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p E17–E23
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e318224cd4c
Research Articles

Objective: Rabies postexposure prophylaxis is an important secondary prevention step but is unnecessary if the exposing animal is not rabid. Effective rabies-related animal control (RRAC) requirements enforced by animal control officers (ACO) are an alternative step to reduce the number of rabies exposures and postexposure prophylaxes. The purpose of this study was to describe the variability of requirements for RRAC by statutes and regulations across the United States.

Methods: Current state laws and regulations pertaining to rabies and animal control were reviewed and assessed for 3 primary RRAC activities related to obtaining animals that have potentially exposed humans to rabies, that have been potentially exposed to rabies, or that show signs of rabies. Animal control infrastructure was assessed on the basis of the requirement for, and authority granted to, ACOs for conducting these RRAC activities. State Public Health Veterinarians, State Veterinarians with the Departments of Agriculture, and/or State Epidemiologists were contacted for verification and assistance with interpretation of laws and regulations.

Results: Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia authorize specific actions related to all 3 RRAC activities. Twenty-four states have laws and regulations that do not clearly address at least 1 of the RRAC activities or limit the authority to domestic animals. Three states have laws or regulations that address RRAC nonspecifically or leave the requirements to localities. Eleven states mandate the placement of ACOs with authority over domestic and wild animals, 7 states require ACOs for control of domestic animals only, and 32 states and the District of Columbia have no statewide requirements for ACOs.

Discussion: Only 9 states have legal requirements for ACOs with authority over wild and domestic animals and RRAC that addresses all 3 primary RRAC activities. Consequently, RRAC requirements may represent an incompletely tapped rabies prevention mechanism.

The study describes the variability of requirements for rabies-related animal control by statutes and regulations across the United States.

Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany (Dr Buss); and Office of Public Health Practice, New York State Department of Health, Albany, and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UAlbany School of Public Health, Rensselaer, New York (Dr Eidson).

Correspondence: Millicent Eidson, MA, DVM, DACVPM (Epi), Corning Tower, Room 2040, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237 (

The authors thank the state public health veterinarians, state veterinarians, and state epidemiologists who assisted with data interpretation and Dr Kristina Dallas for initial investigations. During this study, the Emerging Infectious Disease Fellowship administered by the Association of Public Health Laboratories and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided support to S.B.

The contents of the article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the New York State Department of Health.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.