Rabies Q & A with Dr. Kelly Giesbrecht, Kentucky State Public Health Veterinarian

Dr. Kelly Giesbrecht is the Kentucky State Public Health Veterinarian who oversees rabies protocols and vaccination administration. Below she answers many common rabies vaccination questions.

Q: Are rabies clinics covered?
A: Rabies clinics are covered under 902 KAR 2:070 Rabies Control, Section 8: Local Health Department Operating a Mass Rabies Vaccination Clinic.

(1) A local health department may sponsor a countywide rabies vaccination clinic per year for the purpose of vaccinating dogs, cats, and ferrets.
(2) At least one (1) Kentucky licensed veterinarian shall be available on-site during the rabies clinic to:
(a) Provide the initial vaccine to a dog, cat, or ferret in accordance with Section 2 of this administrative regulation;
(b)1. Provide a three (3) year vaccine booster to a dog or cat with proof of previous rabies vaccination; and
2. Provide a one (1) year vaccine booster to a ferret with proof of previous rabies vaccination; and
(c) Be available to provide medical care if an adverse vaccine event occurs.
(3) An owner shall not be charged more than ten (10) dollars for each vaccination given.

Q: What is the maximum charge for a rabies vaccine?
A: The maximum charge for a rabies vaccine is $10. However:

  • A provider can give additional services and sell products, if the client wants them, such as other vaccines, deworming, etc. Encounters with a rabies clinic is a great way to provide additional animal health that the pet may not otherwise receive and establish a client-provider relationship.
  • There is no set charge for any other service.
  • An exam fee should not be charged in a rabies clinic.
  • Additionally, like any other rabies vaccine, a NASPHV Form 51, vaccine certificate must be filled out for each animal given a rabies vaccine. One copy, along with a tag, is given to the client. The veterinarian retains the other certificate.

Q: At what age should the initial rabies vaccine be given?
A: KRS 258.015 states that every owner shall have his dog, cat, or ferret initially vaccinated against rabies by the age of four (4) months and revaccinated at the expiration of the immunization period as certified by the veterinarian.

This does not mean the vet has to wait until 4 months of age, but the dog, cat or ferret needs to be vaccinated by 4 months of age, not AT 4 months of age. Veterinarians can follow manufacturers guidelines on the earliest an animal (usually 3 months) can be vaccinated.

It’s important to note that:

  • The first time an animal is vaccinated, it is only good for one year. A 3- or 1-year vaccine can be used, but if a 3-year vaccine is used, it still expires in one year.
  • If it is the second or greater vaccine, the 3-year vaccine is good for 3 years.

Q: What if someone purchases rabies vaccine online and it is not administered by a veterinarian? 
A: For the horse, there is no required rabies vaccine, although, of course, you can vaccinate your horse against rabies and it’s a good idea to do so. In this case, the vaccine is not restricted to veterinarian-only administration, since it’s not part of the public health program.
Dogs, cats and ferrets are required to be vaccinated, so they must be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian or by an owner who is certified to vaccinate their own dogs. If someone goes out and buys a vaccine and vaccinates their dog or cat and they are not certified, it’s an invalid vaccine. If they want a health certificate or they want to board their animal, etc. it will not be considered vaccinated. Same if the animal bites someone: it is simply considered an unvaccinated animal.

Q: Are there exemptions for rabies vaccine? 
A; There is no legal rabies exemption in Kentucky at this time. If the animal is too ill to receive a vaccine, that will be dependent on the veterinarian’s clinical judgement. If the animal bites someone, it will be a 10-day (usually at home) quarantine, regardless of the vaccination status. (Unless the animal is suspected to have rabies and needs to be euthanized.)

If you have additional questions, please contact the KVMA office or Dr. Giesbrecht at kelly.giesbrecht@ky.gov 

Rabies Control: 902 KAR 2:070

Detailed text for Kentucky Administration Regulations Title 902 Chapter 2, addressing rabies control in Kentucky.

Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

This Kentucky Public Health brochure explains rabies post-exposure prophylaxis protocol.

Kids Corner: Rabies Crossword Puzzle

Are you a rabies know-it-all? Try your hand at this crossword puzzle to find out!

Kids Corner: Raccoon Coloring Page

Color in this raccoon, but don’t forget the rings on his tail!

Rabies Vaccinations for Dogs, Cats and Ferrets: KRS 258.015

Detailed text for Kentucky Revised Statute 258.015 addressing rabies vaccinations in dogs, cats and ferrets.

Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Brochure, Spanish

This Kentucky Public Health brochure explains rabies post-exposure prophylaxis protocol in Spanish.

Kids Corner: Snakes and Ladders Game for Rabies Education

Grab some friends and roll the dice to see who wins at this Snakes and Ladders game for rabies education!

Kids Corner: Keep Your Pet Safe Activity Book

Learn how to keep your family (both two- and four-legged!) safe from rabies with this exercise book, which includes six super-fun activities!

Mass Rabies Immunization Clinics: KRS 258.043

Detailed text for Kentucky Revised Statute 258.043, addressing mass rabies immunization clinics.

Test Your Rabies Knowledge

Test your rabies knowledge with this quick quiz from Kentucky Public Health.

Kids Corner: Dog Coloring Page

Can you color this dog to look just like your favorite pup?