Rabies; clarifies procedures and responsibilities to prevent and control. (HB621)

Introduced By

Del. Bobby Orrock (R-Thornburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Rabies regulation and control; penalty.  Clarifies the procedures and responsibilities among the Department of Health, localities, and other entities to prevent and control rabies. The changes detail: the authority to access rabies certificates maintained at veterinary hospitals in response to a potential exposure; recordkeeping standards for rabies clinics; the authority of the local health director in regard to a rabies exposure; and the circumstances under which a person might be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor for withholding information about a potentially rabid animal. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Passed


01/12/2010Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/10 10103437D
01/12/2010Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources
01/20/2010Referred from Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources
01/20/2010Referred to Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions
01/29/2010Assigned HWI sub: #1
02/09/2010Reported from Health, Welfare and Institutions with substitute (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/09/2010Committee substitute printed 10104319D-H1
02/10/2010Read first time
02/11/2010Read second time
02/11/2010Committee substitute agreed to 10104319D-H1
02/11/2010Engrossed by House - committee substitute HB621H1
02/12/2010Read third time and passed House BLOCK VOTE (96-Y 0-N)
02/12/2010VOTE: BLOCK VOTE PASSAGE (96-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/15/2010Constitutional reading dispensed
02/15/2010Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources
03/01/2010Reported from Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources with amendments (15-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/02/2010Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/03/2010Read third time
03/03/2010Reading of amendments waived
03/03/2010Committee amendments agreed to
03/03/2010Engrossed by Senate as amended
03/03/2010Passed Senate with amendments (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/04/2010Placed on Calendar
03/05/2010Senate amendments agreed to by House (99-Y 0-N)
03/05/2010VOTE: --- ADOPTION (99-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/12/2010Bill text as passed House and Senate (HB621ER)
03/12/2010Signed by Speaker
03/13/2010Signed by President
03/15/2010Impact statement from DPB (HB621ER)
04/13/2010Governor's recommendation received by House
04/20/2010Placed on Calendar
04/21/2010House concurred in Governor's recommendation (95-Y 0-N)
04/21/2010VOTE: --- ADOPTION (95-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
04/21/2010Senate concurred in Governor's recommendation (39-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
04/21/2010G Governor's recommendation adopted
04/21/2010Reenrolled bill text (HB621ER2)
04/21/2010Signed by Speaker as reenrolled
04/21/2010Signed by President as reenrolled
04/21/2010Enacted, Chapter 834 (effective 7/1/10)
04/21/2010G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0834)


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 2 clips in all, totaling 2 minutes.


Marlene Blackburn writes:

Dear Sirs, Please remove ferrets from this bill- there are excellent studies published that substain that ferrets cannot transmit the rabies virus . They are very poor hosts. Veterinarians are just now learning that we are "over-vaccinating" ferrets with both the Rabies & Distemper vaccines. Ferrets can have drastic reactions to both vaccines, resulting in deaths.
Please feel free to contact me at 804-276-3905; I have multiple sources of literature and several Virginia Veterinarians who can vouch for this information. Thnak you for your time and consideration.
Marlene Blackburn
Director since 1998
Richmond Ferret Rescue League

Lisa Leidig writes:

Rabies information

Rabies has been tracked by the CDC since the 1958. They produce an excellent report called the MMWR (mortality and morbidity weekly report) which addresses the known cases of disease through the United States. On an average year, 4 people die from contracting the rabies virus in the United States.

Since records have been kept tracking the rabies virus, less than 30 ferrets have ever been diagnosed with rabies. That is in 52 years! Also, several of these confirmed rabies cases were associated with vaccination of the ferret with a live vaccine not approved for ferrets. On the other hand, more dogs and cats are diagnosed with the rabies virus each year than the total amount of ferrets ever in history. . By comparison, between 1980 and 1992 alone there were 2,537 cases of rabies reported in cats, and 1,996 cases reported in dogs.

Ferrets are unique in many ways when being compared to dogs and cats – they are altered prior to sale in the pet stores – so there is no risk of a feral population forming. Altering them prior to sale also assists in keeping these pets close to home should they escape. Ferrets are also poor survivors in the wild – typically an escaped ferret will not last more than 3 – 4 days on their own –they do not have the hunting/foraging/scavenging skills in order to thrive outside of human intervention. They will die primarily from starvation or dehydration if not being eaten by other predators. Ferrets are housed indoors almost exclusively so the chances of exposure are almost nil, unlike dogs and cats which will spend time both indoors and outdoors, increasing the risk of exposure. Because ferrets are not typically permitted outdoors except under the close supervision of their human, there is virtually no chance that they can become infected with rabies.

Ferrets, like all members of the weasel family, appear to have a natural resistance to the rabies virus. During the period from 1989 to 1994, there were 10,733 cases of rabies reported in skunks in the United States, and there were 21,447 cases of rabies reported in raccoons. During this same period, there were exactly zero reported cases of rabies in weasels, mink, and ermines. These statistics suggest the possibility that there is a natural resistance to the disease in the weasel family. Skunks were removed from the weasel family (Mustelidae) in 1996 and they were moved to a new family – Mephitidae. The reason for the change in Taxonomy was due to basic differences in the skunks and all other members of the Mustelid family.

The occurrence of rabies in closely related wild animals, such as weasels and mink, is very low. Ferrets have very thick, tough skin, and not all bites will penetrate. For the rabies virus to be transmitted, the skin must be broken and the wound contaminated with saliva from the rabid animal. several of these were associated with vaccination of the animal with a live vaccine not approved for ferrets. No human being has ever been reported to have contracted rabies from a ferret.

In 1992, challenge testing was done using the existing dog vaccine IMRAB-3. During this testing the efficacy of the vaccine in ferrets was 98.7%. The same vaccine used on dogs was at 97.6% - which is now considered the standard for efficacy. In 1992, ferrets were recognized as having an effective vaccine against rabies and the recommendation was to vaccinate but not required.

In 1996 through 1997, The Morris Animal Foundation working with Veterinarian Dr. Charles Rupprecht began studies on whether or not ferrets were a carrier of rabies and posed a possible threat to humans. During the time between 1990 and 1996, ferrets (even those with current rabies vaccinations) when involved in a bite or scratch case were euthanized and tested. None of those ferrets ever tested positive for the disease. Our goal was to have ferrets recognized under the Rabies Compendium and given options to protect including revaccination and quarantine.

During these challenge tests (a challenge test means that the animal is deliberately exposed to the virus) the foundation used the following strains of rabies: Skunk, Raccoon, Big Brown Bat, Small Brown Bat and the Mexican Free-tailed bat. For all strains other than the Mexican Free-tail, the ferrets never had the virus present in the saliva or mucous membranes, even at onset of death. In half the cases using the Mexican Free-tail bat strain, the ferrets did secrete the virus in the saliva but it was at onset of death. Further, ferrets were shown to be when infected with the virus to exhibit the “dumb” form of the virus – they would become lethargic and unresponsive. This is versus the “Furious” form of the disease which involves aggression “think Cujo”.

At the end of these studies, Dr. Rupprecht declared that ferrets were a dead end for the virus and did not pose any risk of spreading the disease. Concurrently in 1998 Dr. Suzanne Jenkins, the Virginia State Health Veterinarian, along with the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, added ferrets to the Rabies Compendium and provided protection and procedures for any involved in a bite or scratching case – even if the ferret was not current on a rabies vaccination.

The request to require vaccinations for ferrets is misguided and unnecessary based on the information that I have listed above

Marlene Blackburn writes:

Dear Sirs,
I would like to add that ferrets should not be vaccinated for rabies (there are only 2 ferret-specific rabies vaccines available) until they are 6 months of age. In addidtion, these vaccines cause the growth of tumours. This has been recognized in cats & dogs for years.
In the past year, we have received 2 ferrets from Animal Control agencies who have had Fibrosarcoma tumors located at the injection sites of vaccines. Surgery to remove these tumors are costly, risky and these tumors are malignant: they can regrow within months of surgery. They are also very large, rapid growth tumors. We do have the biopsy reports and outcome of both ferrets. One died after 3 months, he was only 3 years old, the other is still with me after 8 months. Needless to say, this ferret will
never be placed for adoption- although he is fairly young,no one wants to adopt a cancer survivor.
Thank you.
Marlene Blackburn

Marlene Blackburn writes:

Dear Sirs,

I will be at the hearing at 8:30AM, 02/09/10,
with many documents in hand to strike the compamnion animal, the domesticated ferret,from your Bill HB621. I have already contacted several veterinarians, spoken with the 2 members of the CDC and it is in the best interest for the ferret to have this companion animal striken from this bill. I will either drive, pay for a Taxi or take the GRTC to attend this hearing. Thank you.

Marlene Blackburn