Pennsylvania Rabies Vaccination Regulations and Information

What animals are  required to be vaccinated for rabies in PA?

In PA, all dogs and cats* over 3 months of age must be vaccinated for rabies.

If the first vaccination was given prior to one year of age then the dogs and cats** must be vaccinated again one year later.

After that point, dogs and cats* must be vaccinated either annually or triennially (every 3 years) depending on the vaccine label instructions.  Current regulations do not give the option of quadrennial (every four years ) vaccination yet even though there is a licensed quadrennial product for cats available.


What about dogs or cats that never go outside?

There is no exemption from vaccination for indoor-only animals because we have seen many rabid animals that get inside houses and we have seen “indoor-only animals” that get out sometimes and are exposed to wildlife.


In the past few years alone, for example, we have seen many cases of pets exposed to rabid bats in houses.  Rabid raccoons can be especially adept at getting into homes.  We have had numerous cases of rabid raccoons that got into garages, went down chimneys, or entered homes via pet doors or screen doors.


Who can vaccinate dogs and cats* for rabies in PA?

  1.  A licensed veterinarian
  2. Someone under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian
  3. A certified, licensed kennel owner/operator (licensed by PDA Bureau of Dog Law).  These animals are considered legally vaccinated only while owned by the kennel owner and kept at the kennel.  If they are sold or given away, they must immediately be revaccinated by a licensed veterinarian or under his/her direct supervision.


What must you provide a cat*/dog owner when you vaccinate their animal for rabies?

You are required to give the owner a completed rabies vaccination certificate, signed by a licensed veterinarian.  PA regulations define a rabies vaccination certificate as follows:


Certificate of vaccination—A statement signed by a licensed veterinarian

attesting to the vaccination of a dog or cat and recording the identification,

breed, sex, age and color of the animal, the vaccination tag number, the name,

lot number, duration of immunity and manufacturer of the vaccine and the date

of vaccination.”


  1. The sample certificate at is a useful, complete form, but you may use any form you like that includes the legally required information.
  2. Remember that a rabies vaccination certificate is a legal document and must be filled out as accurately as possible.  Remember that there is no currently licensed 2 year duration rabies vaccination.  The only legally correct durations of rabies vaccinations currently in PA are 1 year or 3 year.


You are also required to give the owner a metal rabies tag bearing the year of vaccination

What animals can you, the licensed veterinarian, vaccinate for rabies?
    1. Extra-label use of rabies vaccine is NOT illegal in PA.  Although this type of vaccination may prevent the animal from developing clinical disease and shedding virus in their saliva, since there hasn’t been enough research on the use of the vaccine in these animals, they are legally considered unvaccinated.  Therefore, they would still be quarantined for 6 months if exposed to a rabid animal and if they bit a person, they would be considered unvaccinated and might be more likely to be euthanized and tested for rabies to protect the health of the person who was bitten.
    2. Extra-label vaccination is not illegal even in pet raccoons and other unusual pets.
    3. Extra-label use of rabies vaccine is at the discretion of the practitioner even in food animals (as per FARAD).  This is important since there is currently no licensed rabies vaccine for goats or pigs.
    4. As a licensed veterinarian, you must decide for yourself how to balance the risk of rabies exposure (generally high in PA) against the risk of extra-label use.


Who can vaccinate other animals for rabies in PA?

It is not illegal for owners to vaccinate their own animals.  However, that vaccination will not be official and thus will not reduce the length of a quarantine if the animal is exposed to a known rabid animal nor will the animal be considered vaccinated if it bites a person so it may be more likely to be euthanized and tested for rabies to protect the health of the person who was bitten.


e.g. An owner vaccinates her horse for rabies every year with an approved equine rabies vaccine.  A rabid raccoon gets into the stall with the horse.  Instead of a 3 month quarantine, the horse will be quarantined for 6 months because it was not vaccinated by or under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.


What do you do with cats*/dogs that are overdue for rabies vaccination?

  1. If the animal has ever previously been vaccinated for rabies, the animal is considered legally vaccinated following the “booster” for the length of time on the vaccine label (e.g. 3 years).  A one year booster is not required unless a one year labeled vaccine is used.
  2. If you prefer to have overdue animals come in for annual vaccination, you can always use a labeled 1 year vaccine instead of a labeled 3 year vaccine.




* What is a cat?

In the rabies law, it is “A carnivorous mammal scientifically known as Felis catus which spends part of a 24-hour day in a residence inhabited by a human being.” (So barn cats, outdoor-only cats, and feral cats that never go in a house are exempt from vaccination requirements.  Sadly, they are not exempt from becoming rabid so we do strongly recommend that they be vaccinated)