West Virginia livestock owners encouraged to vaccinate for rabies

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With two cases of rabies confirmed in livestock already this year, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to consider vaccinating their animals, particularly valuable breeding stock and show animals that are likely to be commingled with other animals.

State law does not require rabies inoculations for livestock, but it does require that manufacturers ship vaccine only to veterinarians in West Virginia, not directly to consumers.

“Veterinarians may sell vaccine to consumers for them to use on their animals, but only for approved livestock,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass.

Approval

The current rabies vaccine is approved only for dogs, cats, cattle, horses and sheep. It is not approved for goats, swine or other animals, according to West Virginia Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian Joe Starcher.

“The danger of using the vaccine on unapproved animals is that it may not provide immunization against the disease, and people in contact with that animal will have a false sense of security that the animal can’t contract rabies,” Starcher explained.

State law requires that pet dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies every two years, Starcher added. Injections for pets must be given by a veterinarian to ensure proper record-keeping.

Under West Virginia law, rabies vaccinations are good for only two years for dogs and cats — and for only one year for cattle, horses and sheep, Starcher said.

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