Addressing The Controversial Decision Not To Have Pets Vaccinated

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It’s something every pet parent has experienced at the veterinarian’s office. A dog in the lobby cowers at the end of its leash — shivering with its tail tucked between its legs — and stubbornly refuses to walk into the exam room. A cat in a carrier yowls to make its feelings known, and anyone brave enough to take a closer look is most likely confronted by the sight of a decidedly unhappy feline, complete with bristled fur, a lashing tail and bared teeth.

No, it’s not a secret that most of our pets hate going to the vet, especially if they need shots. Luckily for some, their human caretakers don’t seem to think vaccinations are necessary. But is that really a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask.

To vaccinate or not: that is the question

Personally, I must confess that I wasn’t aware there was a controversy about pet vaccinations until I read about it on time.com. I mean, it never occurred to me not to have Eli’s shots done. And now that I am thinking about it, I have mixed feelings.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

On one hand, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to take him to the vet for shots. He is an indoor cat, so I could easily justify the decision not to. On the other hand, the thought of him getting some horrible disease — like rabies — is enough to make me glad I’m following the rules.

Even though Eli is an indoor cat,  his penchant for eating the mice he catches puts him at risk for picking up all sorts of nasty bugs — and passing them on to me. His penchant for biting when he’s feeling threatened, scared or mad, is also plenty of incentive to make sure his shots are up to date.

My dog doesn’t need any shots, thank you

But I digress. The point, according to the time.com article is that so-called “anti-vaxxers” are refusing to have their dogs vaccinated based on  misguided fears. Specifically, their opposition seems largely based on the belief that  vaccines are “unnecessary, dangerous and that they can cause a form of (canine) autism, along with other diseases.”

While it says evidence about opposition to pet vaccinations in the United States seems mostly anecdotal and highly localized, TIME reports that “anti-vax activists” in some states are pushing for the loosening of mandatory pet vaccination laws. TIME also reports that some states, including Connecticut, have entertained measures that would do so. So far, those measures have not garnered the support needed to become law.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, there is more concrete information about growing reluctance to have pets vaccinated. As cited by TIME, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report for 2018 indicates that:

  • One quarter of owners report that their dog wasn’t vaccinated when it was young.
  • The total number of young dogs that weren’t vaccinated is approximately 2.2. million.
  • The number of owners who say they didn’t have their young dogs vaccinated “has levelled [sic] off after a significant increase last year.”
  • Twenty-three percent of dogs “have not received regular boosters.”

Furthermore, 20 percent of owners said initial vaccinations are unnecessary; 19 percent cited cost; and 11 percent said they “haven’t thought about it.”  Dog owners gave similar reasons for not ensuring that their pets get annual shots. Fourteen percent stated that their vet “hasn’t recommended annual vaccinations,” and 13 percent said they disagree with the practice.

My cats don’t need any shots, either

Low vaccination rates in the U.K. are not unique to dogs, however. According to the same report:

  • Thirty-five percent of owners said cats never had an initial course of vaccines when they were young.
  • Forty-one percent of cats haven’t gotten annual shots.

The top reasons owners gave for failing to ensure that their cats were vaccinated as youngsters were cost, that they find it unnecessary, and that the cat has no contact with other animals. Owners also gave those reasons for failing to have their cats get annual shots. Sixteen percent of owners also said their cats didn’t get annual shots because the cats are too stressed out by vet visits.

“Clearly, more education is needed to impress the importance of regular vaccinations to prevent
potentially fatal diseases in cats. Equally, ways of reducing cat stress in veterinary clinics could also be a way of encouraging more cat owners to take their pet in for vaccinations,” the report states.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that our pets count on us to keep them safe and keep them healthy. As far as I’m concerned, making sure they get their shots is a crucial part of that. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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