On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Paper published a story that made some wonder if humanity is a failed experiment: It suggested the anti-vaccine movement has leapt between species, with some Brooklyn dog owners now refusing to vaccinate their pets from fear that doing so would cause their animals to become autistic. As Colin Mixson reported:
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A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor.
“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care. “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”
And some anti-vaxxers are not content with just withholding shots from their pets, according to a Park Slope dog owner who has run into skeptics that have encouraged him to forgo inoculations.
The Brooklyn Paper was rightfully incredulous that people wouldn’t vaccinate their pets out of their misguided belief that it might make them autistic. Vaccines don’t cause autism in pets or in humans—the research that originally claimed that they did has long since been exposed as fabrication and fraud. Tina Wismer, medical director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center, confirmed that there is no scientific evidence supporting the claim vaccines cause autism in dogs.
Vaccines in humans protect us from deadly diseases—and canine vaccinations do the same. The American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force divides its vaccination recommendations into three categories: core, noncore, and not recommended. Core vaccines, which are canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies, are considered “core” in large part because of the diseases’ transmissibility to humans. Only the rabies vaccination is required by law, though, and even then regulation varies tremendously. While all states require rabies vaccinations, the amount of time a dog can go without a booster shot changes state-by-state. In some parts of the country, like the District of Columbia, dogs need a booster shot every year, but in many others, like California, booster shots are required only every three years.
The obvious repercussions of not vaccinating your pets is transmission. According to the World Health Organization, 55,000 people worldwide die every year from rabies, and “the vast majority” of those deaths are from dog bites. The Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control also points out a nightmarish outcome that can result from not vaccinating pets:
Dogs and cats that have never been vaccinated and are exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should receive a rabies vaccination and be placed in strict isolation for 4 months. Isolation in this context refers to confinement in an enclosure that precludes direct contact with people and other animals.
Vaccination seems preferable.