My parents adopted a cat from their local OSPCA shelter the other day. He’s an adult cat (maybe named by now, but not at last report) and he came:

  • neutered
  • vaccinated against the typical group of feline diseases
  • dewormed with fenbendazole
  • treated with metronidazole (an antibiotic – it wasn’t clear whether this was because he had diarrhea at some point or was diagnosed with something, or whether it was just a routine practice)
  • treated with Revolution for flea control

The one thing that’s missing from the list is vaccinated against rabies, which I find amazing. Apparently, the cat was given everything they can give at the shelter without the need for a veterinarian. (Presumably the cat came in neutered, because that would hopefully fall under the "need a veterinarian to do it" category. Prescribing an antibiotic would also be something I’d hope would involve a veterinarian.)

Sending cats to new homes without vaccinating them for rabies is bad practice. Rabies is a rare but extremely serious disease. Vaccination is critical, safe and easy. The OSPCA website says that not all shelters vaccinate against rabies. Some shelters have veterinary staff in the facility, so rabies vaccination would be standard there. Other shelters work with local vets to do this, but that’s not universal, apparently. I don’t see why this isn’t a mandatory policy for the OSPCA. Yes, there is a cost to it, but that should be a cost of doing business. Rabies vaccines aren’t expensive and many vets would work with groups like this to keep the costs down. Adopting an animal from a shelter isn’t cheap, and recovering the small added cost of the vaccine should be possible. I’m not sure whether it really is a question of cost, accessibility or simply not bothering. Getting a veterinarian involved also has benefits beyond just giving the vaccine. Potential health problems can be identified, including diseases that could be transmitted to people that adopt the animals.

It’s true that lack of vaccination of adopted pets can be addressed by getting them vaccinated right after adoption. Any pet that has been adopted (or purchased, or otherwise obtained) should be promptly examined by a veterinarian to identify any potential problems, and to make sure the pet is on a proper preventive medicine program. Realistically though, not everyone does this. While you don’t like to set policies according to the lowest common denominator, you need to for a deadly disease like rabies when the consequences to people and pets are so high. I find it hard to justify sending any animal out of a shelter without rabies vaccination.

Image source: