*This page was created several years ago so hopefully some of these laws have been changed by now. When I have some free time I do plan to check them and update this page.


All states should allow medical exemptions but many seem to still be ignoring the serious and well documented medical evidence as well as the health and lives of our beloved pets. Imagine living in a state that does not allow medical exemptions, your pet suddenly becomes very seriously ill and it is due to be vaccinated. Then you learn that a little gem like this one from Virginia is lurking in your local ordinances.


Chapter Title - Vaccination Of Cats And Dogs

Any dog or cat found in the city that is not currently vaccinated for rabies and identified as provided in this section shall be impounded and disposed of in accordance with article II of this chapter.



Yes, it does say "disposed of." They can confiscate your pet and kill it simply because it is not currently vaccinated? Do they think a pet will suddenly become rabid just because it is due for re-vaccination?


After doing everything we possibly could to save our dog's life and getting a letter of rabies medical exemption from our vet we thought Mikey was safe but no, it was just a short, sweet illusion.

I Googled "Florida State Statutes" and found a link to the Florida State Legislature website.

Fortunately the site had a "search" feature so I did a search for "rabies." That took me straight to links about pet laws and vaccinations.

Chapter Title - Animals; Cruelty; Sales; Animal Enterprise; Protection.


The medical exemption clause is in section 2

A dog, cat, or ferret is exempt from vaccination against rabies if a licensed veterinarian has examined the animal and has certified in writing that at the time vaccination would endanger the animal’s health because of its age, infirmity, disability, illness, or other medical considerations. An exempt animal must be vaccinated against rabies as soon as its health permits.


Sadly, this is in section 7

Line 1

This section does not prohibit or limit municipalities or counties from establishing requirements similar to or more stringent than the provisions of this section for the implementation and enforcement of rabies-control ordinances.


Does "more stringent" mean the counties can completely destroy the protection that was given to our pets by the state's medical exemption clause? Don't county regulations have to comply with state statutes?


Line 2

However, local governments shall not mandate revaccination of currently vaccinated animals except in instances involving post exposure treatment for rabies.


Our State lawmakers actually had to write a law to force the counties to accept the three year rabies vaccine? Although the State had accepted it for many years, many of the counties continued requiring annual vaccinations even if the pet was currently vaccinated with a 3 year vaccine. Why?


This is a nationwide source for County Codes at

Click on "Browse The Library"

Click on your State

Click on your County (some City ordinances are available too)

Click "View Ordinances"

Then look for "Animals"

Click on "Animal Control"

Chapter Title - Rabies Vaccination

Line 1

A rabies vaccination is excused only if a dog, cat, or ferret is less than four (4) months of age, or if a licensed veterinarian certifies in writing that rabies vaccination would be injurious to the health of a dog, cat, or ferret.


Line 2

In the latter case, such dog, cat, or ferret shall be confined in an enclosed building or a kennel at all times until a licensed veterinarian can safely vaccinate the dog, cat, or ferret.


Confined in a building or kennel "at all times" registers in my mind as, "absolutely no play time outside, no real exercise." It also gives the pet owner who is paying the sick pet's vet bills the added burden of constructing a kennel that might only be required for a few weeks. Why?

Obviously the local officials must think our beloved medically exempt pets are a serious threat to the community because they are not currently vaccinated.

Exercise is a vital part of restoring and maintaining health. It also plays a tremendous role in behavior problems as well. Vets do determine that some medically exempt dogs can be safely vaccinated at a later date while others cannot. Are those who cannot be vaccinated again supposed to be kept confined in a structure or kennel at all times for life?

The justification for laws such as these is "Rabies Control And Prevention." Of course any medically exempt pet should never be outside without constant direct supervision but reading these laws leads me to strongly believe they really mean confined in a structure or kennel "at all times."

The fact that your are paying vet bills for your beloved dog or cat is an indication that you are a responsible pet owner and now you may be suddenly slapped with the additional unexpected financial burden of constructing an outdoor kennel that you probably don't want and may never need again. If you are renting a home and the property owner will not allow an outdoor kennel to be constructed for the dog are you supposed to surrender / re-home your sick pet?


Touchy subject, I really don't want to go there but...

Why are these sick pets pets such a threat to the community but we are supposed to be tolerant of feral cat colonies? Even with the "trap-neuter-return" programs can we assume ALL of them have been vaccinated? Are they all kept current with their rabies vaccinations? Of course not, but they are not required to be kept confined in a structure or kennel at all times. Rabies statistics show a much higher rate of confirmed cases in cats. So why are these well cared for, sick dogs to be kept under extremely strict confinement at all times while feral cats run free?

Sometimes the laws don't seem to make sense, they are so confusing and sometimes it appears that you can't comply with one law without breaking another.

Chapter Title - Cruelty To Animals

(Keep in mind, " shall be confined in an enclosed building or a kennel at all times." )

The following acts or omissions shall constitute cruelty to animals under this article:

confining an animal without sufficient food, water or exercise, or abandonment of an animal is a criminal offense. The division shall investigate reported incidents involving such action or support investigations by other law enforcement agencies when so requested and refer cases where probable cause exists to the state attorney's office for criminal prosecution.


Keeping a pet confined in a structure or kennel at all times is clearly animal cruelty. Is it county mandated animal cruelty when pet owners are forced to do this to medically exempt pets? Some pets cannot ever be safely vaccinated again because it could kill them. Are they to be confined with no exercise for life?


Farther down in the same chapter I found this

The following acts or omissions shall constitute improper confinement or abandonment:

Keeping an animal in any enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air.


In the same chapter I found this

Definition - Wholesome exercise shall mean uninhibited movement for a period of time sufficient for the physical well being of an animal, considering the size, age, and breed of that animal.


County regulations - "In the latter case, such dog, cat, or ferret shall be confined in an enclosed building or a kennel at all times until a licensed veterinarian can safely vaccinate the dog, cat, or ferret."

Chapter Title - Neglect Of Animals Prohibited

Neglect of animals is a violation of this article and occurs if the owner or keeper of an animal commits any one (1) of the following prohibited acts or omissions:

Confines any animal without providing wholesome exercise;

Chapter 828 of the Florida State Statutes

828.13 Confinement of animals without sufficient food, water, or exercise; abandonment of animals.— (b)Keeps any animals in any enclosure without wholesome exercise

is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both imprisonment and a fine.


Hey human!

Can you take me out to play in the back yard?

You read the laws but you still don't know do you?

You've already spent a small fortune on vet bills and constructing a kennel that you may not really need or want so now are you supposed to hire an attorney to make sense of these contradictory laws or just risk your pet being confiscated? Should it be this complicated?


It is very important to remember that medically exempt pets are medically exempt because they are not well and vaccinating them "at this time" could be detrimental to their health or it could even be fatal. For some of them the delayed vaccination is a temporary situation such as while recovering from surgery. For others the delay could be because they are undergoing treatments for potentially fatal conditions such as cancer or heart disease or they are in the late or actual end stages of life. The veterinary community typically says it is rare but some dogs have such severe adverse reactions to vaccines that they are permanently damaged.

I don't think it is really rare. They have managed to identify ten breeds that are known to have difficulty tolerating vaccines so how rare can it be? I think what is truly rare is that some of them with severe damage actually survive. Based on my experiences with Mikey I know it isn't an easy task and you must be prepared to give your credit card a really good work out. Saving one of these dogs can be a major commitment.

The Laws Get Even Crazier

Chapter Title - Impoundment of Animals

The county may purchase, construct, lease, operate, and maintain county shelters to retain:

Any animal captured, seized or picked up by the division pursuant to this article;

Animal services division staff may administer medication and veterinary care as prescribed by a veterinarian. The county, its employees and agents, shall not be liable for any act or omission in rendering such care.



There are so many things wrong with this, where shall we start?

It is very unlikely in my opinion that these medically exempt sick pets will be a threat to the community. I find it hard to believe they will be out running the streets, just happen to come into contact with a rabid animal, become infected with the rabies virus and spreading it but they must be kept locked up at all times while feral cats run free.

If they aren't locked up they could be confiscated by Animal Control for failure to comply with the Rabies Vaccination ordinances, and if they are locked up they could be confiscated by Animal Control for violating the Animal Cruelty ordinances.

Then when they do confiscate these sick pets they are not required to give them their medications? Just the stress of removing them from their home could be fatal to some of them such as those with severe heart conditions. While impounded at the Animal Control facility they could also be exposed to a multitude of diseases. One of our local Animal Control Officers told me that if Mikey ever ended up in their custody our sick boy would not get any special treatment, not even his medically necessary diet so I am not going to assume he would not get medications either.

Chapter Title - Rabies Vaccination

No animal impounded pursuant to this article shall be released to its owner or keeper until:

The owner of any dog or cat held under quarantine must provide proof of vaccination against rabies or have the dog or cat vaccinated against rabies before the dog or cat will be released from quarantine. The owner's failure to have the dog or cat vaccinated against rabies shall be a violation of this article.


Again, they've made no provisions for medically exempt pets so it appears they would vaccinate them while knowing the pet's primary care veterinarian has stated in writing that vaccine could and in many cases probably would be very detrimental to their health. Another interesting little morsel in that chapter, if your pet is not spayed or neutered they certainly could be before they are returned to you. Spaying and neutering is good but what if you spent a small fortune for a purebred pet from a champion bloodline, a show dog or cat? I've seen no indication that those pets would be treated any differently. Hopefully, I have overlooked something.

Chaper Title - Animal shelters and veterinarian care

The director may retain a licensed veterinarian to sterilize any impounded, fertile dog or cat, treat any sick or injured animals, inoculate rabies-susceptible animals and perform any and all other services for which a licensed veterinarian might be required.


You might think they would never do that since the pet is obviously a purebred. They are not a novelty in the shelters. Approximately twenty five percent of the dogs that end up in shelters each year are purebreds.

Chapter Title - Cruelty To Animals

The following acts or omissions shall constitute cruelty to animals under this article:

Intentionally committing an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done.


Would that include actions like knowingly vaccinating a medically exempt pet? If it is medically exempt that means the pet's primary care vet has stated in writing that vaccinating it could be detrimental to its health!

Confiscating sick pets is a money maker for the county but it is also a great way for Animal Control to further damage the public's opinion of the department and there is also one more ugly thing to consider. Let's not forget that accidents do happen at Animal Control, like euthanizing the wrong animals. Yes, it does happen.

Sometimes the folks at Animal Control say they don't enforce some regulations, the fact is it is a written law and they can decide to enforce it at any time if they choose to. If you end up standing in front of a judge is he going to go by what you say the Animal Control Officer told you or will the judge be forced to go by what the law says? Then there is the question, "Why should we trust them?"

The only way to get the laws changed is to make the lawmakers aware that there is a problem. I contacted our local Animal Control again and I have contacted some of our County Commissioners.

It was interesting .... and it isn't over yet.