New Rabies Law for State of Arkansas

(Little Rock) — The updated Rabies Control Act has new rules passed by the State Board of Health that allow for a longer interval between rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats.  The new rules will become effective January 1, 2010.

 The updated Rabies Control Act was passed by the Arkansas State Legislature in 2009 (Act 159). Under the new rules, all dogs and cats four months of age or older will be required to have a rabies vaccination given by a licensed veterinarian. Currently no age limit is specified for initial vaccinations. Regardless of the age of the animal at initial vaccination, a booster vaccination should be administered one year later (as recommended by every licensed vaccine currently available).  Following the booster, dogs and cats should be placed on a vaccination schedule according to the labeled duration of the vaccine used. Both one- and three-year duration vaccines are available.  There is also a four-year vaccine for cats.

 If a veterinarian administers a one-year licensed rabies vaccine, the pet will need to be revaccinated one year later.  If a three-year vaccine is chosen, the pet will be required to be revaccinated three years later.  Pet owners should discuss the options of a one-year or three-year vaccine with their veterinarian, with the decision made in the best interest of the pet.

 Rabies primarily exists in wildlife.  In Arkansas, the host animals are skunks and bats, but any mammal can become infected if bitten by a rabid skunk or bat.  According to Dr. Susan Weinstein, State Public Health Veterinarian, the biggest issue for our state is that many pet owners do not get their dogs or cats vaccinated at all. Rural dogs and cats, especially those that live outdoors, are most commonly exposed to rabid animals in the wild.  These same outdoor dogs and cats are also the least likely to be vaccinated.  All dogs and cats should be taken to a licensed veterinarian to be vaccinated for rabies. Due to the routine physical contact between people and domestic pets, it is especially important to get these pets vaccinated in order to reduce rabies exposure to humans.

For additional information on updates to the new Act 159, go to the Department of Health website at To review changes in rabies vaccination requirements in the Rules Pertaining to Rabies Control, go to