Vaccinating Wolf Hybrids
Regulatory agencies and insurance companies have wrestled with the issue of whether or not wolf hybrids should be vaccinated for rabies. Sworn to uphold their oath and code of ethics, veterinarians are caught in the middle as regulatory agencies question the immunity produced by vaccinating the animals; and insurance companies waiver on liability coverage for incidents involving vaccinated and unvaccinated wolf hybrids.
The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) requires that if an animal contains any wolf, even one percent, it must be considered a wolf hybrid and handled as an exotic animal. The California Department of Fish and Game, however, only requires a permit for the animal if it is fifty percent or more wolf. According to CDHS a veterinarian can vaccinate the animal with canine rabies vaccine, but if it bites someone or is bitten by a rabid animal it will be treated as unvaccinated.
The AVMA Professional Liability Trust, which carries malpractice insurance for most veterinarians, takes the position that if there are no state or local laws against keeping wolf hybrids as pets, the Trust would consider vaccination a discretionary use of a biologic.
The AVMA Trust cautions veterinarians to inform owners that the vaccine is not licensed for use in wolf hybrids and no studies have proven efficacy of the vaccine in the animals. Veterinarians are also reminded to enter their discussion with the client in the animal’s record and have the client initial it.
CVMA Policy Statement
If wolf hybrids are not banned by your local jurisdiction, rabies vaccine could be administered after:
1. The owner has been advised that the vaccine is not licensed for use in wolf hybrids and its efficacy is unknown.
2. The owner signs a consent form that acknowledges:
a. The unknown efficacy of the vaccine.
b. That a wolf hybrid will not be handled as a domestic dog following a human bite.
c. That a wolf hybrid exposed to a rabid animal could be euthanized even if currently vaccinated.
d. The release of liability of the veterinarian and staff, health department, vaccine manufacturer and distributor, and other involved parties.
3. The owners claim that the animal is a wolf hybrid should be recorded on the rabies vaccination certificate.
4. The animal of an owner that refuses to sign a consent form should not be vaccinated, and this refusal should be documented in the record.
5. Due to potential legal ramification, the veterinarian should counsel against ownership of a wolf hybrid or any exotic animal due to behavioral considerations. Or at the very least recommend such things as double fencing and cautions around children. This should be done for any veterinary treatment of these species, not just the rabies vaccinations.
The consent form and all the above information should be included in the animal’s permanent medical record, with a new consent form signed for each vaccination. See the sample consent form below.
OWNER REQUEST FORM FOR RABIES VACCINATION OF
A WILD ANIMAL OR WILD ANIMAL HYBRID.
I request that my ____________________________________ (species), a wild animal or wild animal hybrid, receive an inactivated (killed virus), rabies vaccine.
Animal Name _________________________________________________ Age ______ Sex ______
I further acknowledge that I have been advised by the attending veterinarian of the following:
1. While inactivated rabies vaccines have been proven effective in domestic animals, their effectiveness in wild animals or their hybrids has not been tested, and therefore, is unknown.
2. Because the effectiveness is unknown, there may still be considerable risk of vaccinated wild animals or their hybrids contracting rabies if exposed (bitten) by a rabid animal.
3. Because the effectiveness is unknown, there may still be considerable risk to humans who come in contact with vaccinated wild animals or their hybrids that have been exposed to rabies.
4. Because the effectiveness is unknown, a wild animal or its hybrid that bites a human will be considered non-vaccinated, regardless of its vaccination history. The recommendation in such cases would be to sacrifice the biting animal and examine the brain for rabies.
5. Because the effectiveness is unknown, a wild animal or its hybrid that bites another animal will be considered non-vaccinated, regardless of its vaccination history. The recommendation in such cases depends on the animal bitten and its vaccination history, but the appropriate action could be to sacrifice the biting animal and examine the brain for rabies.
SIGNATURE ____________________________________________________ DATE ______________
WORK PHONE _________________________
HOME PHONE _________________________