Do I Have to Vaccinate My Dog? (Legal Requirements By State)

The laws around vaccinating your dog differ from state to state.  Most states require you to have your dog vaccinated against rabies. While other vaccinations are not necessarily mandated, they are equally as important to ensure our dog’s health and safety.

This article will discuss the reasons why vaccines are important for your dog’s health and if you are legally obligated to vaccinate your canine.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Dog?

Vaccinations help your dog fight off diseases that can make them very sick or possibly be fatal. Vaccines are a weakened or inactive pathogen of the disease that is given in a shot.  The introduction of the disease into your body will push your body to create antibodies.  These antibodies will remember the virus from that point on and will be able to fight the virus more effectively.

Vaccinations will ensure your dog does not have to endure serious illnesses.  These sicknesses will make your pooch very ill, if not worse.   The vaccines could help you avoid expensive veterinarian treatments for your dog if they contract preventable illnesses.

Core vaccines

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a viral infection.  This virus will attack the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems in dogs.  This illness can make your dog sick for months if they survive the sickness.

Canine Hepatitis

Canine Hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection.  It will affect the respiratory system of your furry pal. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, most dogs will recover in 2-3 weeks, but it is common for dogs to become ill with a secondary infection that can lead to pneumonia.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly virus spread through the saliva of an infected animal.  It attacks the nervous system of its victim.  This disease is transmissible to humans.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus or commonly called Parvo, is a highly contagious viral infection that can live on surfaces, in dirt or grass for up to a year.  This disease is very detrimental to puppies.

Non-core vaccines

Bordetella

Bordetella is a bacterial infection that easily spreads from one dog to another.  It is a respiratory infection that is the leading cause of kennel cough in dogs. This vaccine will most likely be required by a doggy daycare, a boarding kennel, or a dog training class.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an illness that is transferred through tick bites. This sickness will travel through the bloodstream and will create different issues in major organs or joints.  This vaccine is recommended in only a certain geographic area.

Rattlesnake venom vaccine

A rattlesnake bite is unexpected and can be deadly to your canine companion.  This vaccine is highly recommended in certain geographic areas.

Can I Get In Trouble for Not Vaccinating My Dog?

Most vaccines, though highly recommended by the American Veterinarian Medical Association and the American Kennel Club, are not required by any governing branch. Rabies is the only vaccine that, depending on the state, you can be punished for not obtaining or keeping up to date.  This is due to the possible transmission to humans. 

Always keep your dog updated on their rabies shot and keep their tags and paperwork available.  The possible punishments and citations vary from state to state.  See the list below for your state’s disciplinary action for not keeping current or not getting your dog their rabies vaccine.

Is It Legal to Not Get Your Dog Vaccinated?

In most states, it is illegal not to have your dog vaccinated for rabies.  Some states allow a medical exemption, but this needs to be deemed necessary by a veterinarian.  See the list below for your state’s regulations:

State

Regulation

Exemption

Disciplinary Action

Alabama

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

The owner of a dog found with no provable record of current rabies immunization is subject to a fine of no more than double the cost of the vaccine plus the vaccine cost.

Alaska

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies, per the Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, which is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Dogs found with no provable rabies immunization can be confiscated and either vaccinated or euthanized. The owner of the dog is liable for all costs and expenses of the vaccine, boarding, and confiscation, as well as other penalties and fines.

Arizona

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Arkansas

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Owners have 30 days to vaccinate recently purchased dogs that are over 4 months old.

None.

The owner of a dog found with no provable record of current rabies immunization is subject to a fine of no more than $1,000 per violation. Every day after the infraction will be considered a violation.

California

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Colorado

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Connecticut

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Any violation is an infraction.

Delaware

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

$25.00 fine.

District of Columbia

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

$25.00 fine for the first offense.

$50 fine for the second offense within 24 months

$100 fine for every other offense within 24 months.

Florida

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Penalty not to exceed $500.

Georgia

Dogs over 12 weeks old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Hawaii

Dogs over 90 days old or at the time of their arrival need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Idaho

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. All dogs coming from out of state need a letter from a vet stating the dog is in good health before arrival.

None.

Not specified.

Illinois

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Indiana

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Iowa

Dogs over 6 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Kansas

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. All dogs coming from out of state need a letter from a vet stating the dog is in good health before arrival.

None.

Not specified.

Kentucky

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Fine of no less than $10 but no more than $100 per day the dog violates the law.

Louisiana

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Fine of no more than $100 and/or jailed for longer than 30 days for each offense.

Maine

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Fine of no more than $100.

Maryland

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Massachusetts

Dogs over 6 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Fine of no more than $100.

Michigan

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Minnesota

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Mississippi

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Misdemeanor offense with a fine of $5 for a first offense.

Missouri

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Montana

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Nebraska

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Not specified.

Nevada

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

The dog may be impounded.

New Hampshire

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Any person who violates the provisions shall be found guilty of a violation.

New Jersey

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

New Mexico

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Violation is a misdemeanor offense.

New York

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Fine not to exceed $200 per offense.

North Carolina

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

Not specified.

North Dakota

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Owners have 30 days to vaccinate recently purchased dogs.

None.

Not specified.

Ohio

None.

None.

None.

Oklahoma

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Fine of no more than $100 and/or jailed for longer than 30 days for each offense.

Oregon

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated before they are 6 months old for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Pennsylvania

Within 4 weeks of the dog becoming 3 months old needs to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian or owner of a kennel. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner for up to 1 year.

Fine not to exceed $300 per offense.

Rhode Island

Dogs between 3-4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Charged with a misdemeanor offense and a fine of $200-$500 and/or jailed for 10-30 days and your dog confiscated.

South Carolina

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

A misdemeanor offense.

South Dakota

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Tennessee

Dogs over 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

A Class C misdemeanor offense.

Texas

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

A Class C misdemeanor offense moving to a Class B misdemeanor for a second violation.

Utah

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

Vermont

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Virginia

Dogs over 4 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner.

Not specified.

Washington

Dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

West Virginia

Dogs by 6 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

None.

A fine of $10-$50 and/or jailed for 10-60 days.

Wisconsin

Dogs by 5 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination must be administered 1 year after the first dose.

A medical exemption may be given if deemed necessary by a veterinarian and with the consent of the owner for up to 1 year.

Not specified.

Wyoming

Dogs older than 3 months old need to be vaccinated for rabies that is administered by a licensed veterinarian.

None.

Not specified.

FAQs

How Often Should I Revaccinate?

You should follow the recommendation of the vaccine bottle. https://www.avma.org/vaccination-faq

How Much Do Vaccinations Cost?

Depending on the area where you live, the AKC says they cost around $75-100. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-shots-complete-guide/

Want To Train Your Dog With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

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Final Thoughts

Vaccinating your dog is good for your dog and other animals your dog is exposed to.  Making sure we take our dogs to their annual checkups and opting to get them their vaccines is worth the effort and money to ensure your dog stays healthy.