Woof! Anti-vaxxer pet owners nix rabies shots over doggie ‘autism’ fears: study


This news could leave you foaming at the mouth.

A majority of dog owners are now considering letting their dogs go vaccine-free — even if it means getting rabies or other deadly diseases, new research shows.

According to a recent study in the journal Vaccine, 53% of dog owners believe pet vaccines to be unsafe, ineffective and/or unnecessary.

Dogs are responsible for 99% of rabies cases worldwide.

The disease is almost always fatal for people and animals, once symptoms appear.

“Honestly, we were pretty surprised,” Dr. Matt Motta, one of the study’s authors and a political scientist at Boston University’s School of Public Health, told Bloomberg.

“Canine vaccine hesitancy is pervasive,” Motta said.

Rabies — estimated to cause 59,000 human deaths annually — is just one communicable disease that can be prevented by vaccines.


Rabies vaccines are required by many state governments, but some pet owners are hesitant to get the lifesaving shot.
Rabies vaccines are required by many state governments, but some pet owners are hesitant to get the lifesaving shot.
Future Publishing via Getty Images

Lyme disease and leptospirosis in unvaccinated pets, for example, can infect people as well as animals. In 2017, New York City saw an outbreak of leptospirosis, which infected several people in the Bronx, according to Brooklyn Paper.

Vaccine hesitancy “is problematic not only because it may inspire vaccine refusal — which may in turn facilitate infectious disease spread in both canine and human populations — but because it may contribute to veterinary care provider mental/physical health risks,” the study authors wrote.

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In the latest survey, almost 40% of pet owners were concerned that vaccines could cause dogs to develop autism, an idea that has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” Dr. Stephanie Liff of Brooklyn’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care told Brooklyn Paper.

“We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog,” Liff added. “I don’t think you could.”


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a dramatic shift in public perceptions of vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a dramatic shift in public perceptions of vaccine safety and effectiveness.
AFP via Getty Images

Most state governments require rabies vaccinations for both cats and dogs. Others, such as the parvovirus vaccine, aren’t required but are critical for dogs’ health, veterinarians say.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on vaccine hesitancy. Less than 80% of Americans now believe childhood vaccines are important, compared to 93% before the pandemic, according to a report from UNICEF.

“Vaccination coverage dropped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving millions more children unprotected against some of childhood’s most serious diseases,” the UNICEF report stated, calling it a “red alert” situation.

“What this demonstrates is that COVID fundamentally changed how Americans look at vaccines,” said Motta.

“We are living in a world where states are considering rolling back vaccine requirements,” Motta added. “What’s to say pets aren’t the next frontier?”

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