There’s nothing too earth-shattering here, but a few useful changes pertaining to rabies regulations are coming to Ontario as of July 1, 2023.

  1. Medical officers of health (MOHs) will have the ability to require rabies testing of animals that have died or are euthanized during their 10 day observation period after they’ve bitten someone.

When a person is bitten by a dog or cat, it needs to be reported to public health, and the animal undergoes a 10 day observation period. Based on what we know about rabies shedding, if the animal is still alive and neurologically normal on day 10, it could not have transmitted rabies to the person via the bite on day zero. That means the bite victim can relax and doesn’t require rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Previously, if an owner animal died or had to be euthanized during this period, MOHs didn’t actually have the authority to require testing. They could recommend, ask, cajole… but the wording was vague enough that animal owners could refuse to have their animal tested. In the past, owners consented to the testing most of the time, but not always. Now, testing can be mandated, since otherwise, we couldn’t rule out rabies and the person that was bitten might have had to undergo unnecessary PEP.

  1. Rabies vaccination requirements will allow for vaccination outside of Ontario, under certain conditions.

The current wording in Regulation 567 requires all dogs, cats and ferrets over three months of age (and certain horses, cattle and sheep) to be vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian that’s licensed in Ontario and with a vaccine that’s approved in Canada (I think a lot of veterinarians in Ontario don’t actually realize this). It makes sense to require re-vaccination of many imported dogs, but not all, especially those vaccinated in the US where veterinary training, vaccines and documentation requirements are basically the same.

After July 1, rabies vaccination will be considered adequate if performed by a veterinarian licensed anywhere in Canada or the US, with a vaccine licensed in the same jurisdiction, and accompanied by proper documentation (i.e. a vaccination certificate that meets the requirements listed in the Ontario Regulation 567).

So, the retired person that spends the winter in Florida and gets their dog vaccinated there doesn’t need to get the dog re-vaccinated again upon returning to Ontario (at least until the US vaccination expires). The imported dog from overseas where we may have less confidence in the reliability of the vaccine, documentation or reporting still needs to be re-vaccinated on arrival in Ontario.

The Ministry of Health and College of Veterinarians of Ontario have provided a decision tree to help clarify rabies vaccination requirements in imported animals: