Are You Legally Responsible for Getting Your Dog Shots?

Rabies shots are required by law.
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Vaccinations are recommended by vets and animal welfare organizations. Specific vaccinations are considered "core" for dogs by the American Animal Hospital Association, including canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies. However, only the rabies vaccination is typically required by law, and the legally mandated frequency of the rabies vaccination varies by state but is usually annually or once every three years. In California, a dog may be exempted from the rabies vaccination requirement under certain conditions.

Molly's Bill in California

In California, a dog may be exempted from the legal requirement to get a rabies shot if a veterinarian verifies that the dog's life may be endangered by the vaccination. This verification must be renewed on an annual basis. A dog not vaccinated according to this rule must be confined to the owner's premises and must be kept on a short leash when outside those premises.

Immigration Requirements

To bring a dog into the United States, you must have proof of rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior to entry. If a dog is too young to be vaccinated, he must be confined until he is old enough -- and then further confined until 30 days have passed after he's received his vaccination. The rabies vaccination requirement may be waived if the dog is coming from a rabies-free country.