The Law

Many people are not aware that in South Africa, the Animal Health Act places responsibility on the owners of animals to protect their animals from parasites or any pathogens likely to cause disease.

The Science

In veterinary medicine, vaccination has proven to be a boon for animal health. Diseases such as canine parvovirus and canine distemper, feline leukemia, or equine tetanus, have been greatly reduced and in some cases, nearly eliminated, by vaccination. And, as in human medicine, a small, but vocal, anti-vaccination movement has developed, regaling fearful listeners with tales of acute harm, or chronic, low-grade disease (sometimes termed “vaccinosis”).

Historically, many animal vaccinations have been given annually. These recommendations were based on the best available knowledge at the time. As research has continued, it appears that some vaccines may protect animals from disease for longer than was previously felt. This information has been incorporated into some vaccine guidelines, e.g., many rabies vaccinations are now given every three years, instead of annually.

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We are subsequently seeing a resurgence of deadly disease like canine parvo, feline panleukopenia, canine distemper, canine infectious hepatitis and leptospirosis. What’s more, for patients that legitimately have medical reasons why they should not receive vaccines, they consequently are at greater risk when pets in the majority that can and should receive vaccines, fail to receive them due to the owner’s refusal to allow it.  Thus, pet owners that refuse vaccines for their pets do not only stand to put their own pets in harm’s way, but by decreasing herd immunity, put other innocents in danger who have medical restrictions that preclude their ability to receive vaccines.