The rabies vaccine has never been approved for use in wolves or wolfdogs. Because of this, it has long been a controversial issue within the wolfdog community. This page provides a history of the issue as well as new efforts being made toward getting rabies vaccine approval for wolfdogs.
This article was published in 1996 in the journal Public Health Reports. The authors discussed rabies management and prevention in mammals, including captive wolves and wolfdogs. They suggested that if wolves and wolfdogs are properly vaccinated, they should respond appropriately. They added, though, that a lack of epizootiologic, clinical, and pathogenetic information associated with rabies in wolves and their hybrids has caused public health officials to maintain their recommendations for euthanasia of such animals involved in human exposure, regardless of vaccination status, until additional scientific evidence is available.
This story was written for the Wolf Dog Coalition, an organization formed in 1996 by members of the wolfdog community in response to the rabies issue coming to the forefront. The story chronicles the unnecessary and traumatic death of a dog, irresponsibly claimed by previous owners to be a wolfdog, following a bite incident two years earlier.
In 1999, the USDA-APHIS filed a proposal in the Federal Register, for public comment, to amend the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act regulations by adding a definition of the term dog to include all members of the species Canis familiaris, C. lupus, or any dog-wolf cross. APHIS believed that dogs, wolves, and wolfdogs could be safely and effectively vaccinated with canine vaccines. If passed, this action would have allowed any canine vaccines, including rabies, to be legally used for wolves and wolfdogs. FLA published this proposal in its entirety in the first ever issue (Vol. 1, Issue 1) of the Florida Lupine News.
Also in 1999, the FLA Board of Directors submitted a formal comment regarding the proposed rule to USDA-APHIS. This is that comment, which was also published in the October-December 1999 issue (Vol. 1, Issue 2) of the Florida Lupine News.
In 2001, the USDA-APHIS published in the Federal Register a formal withdrawal of their proposed rule to amend the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act regulations by adding a definition of the term dog to include all members of the species Canis familiaris, C. lupus, or any dog-wolf cross. They claimed that they withdrew the propoal due to comments received during the public comment period, but a contributing factor was the reversal of the American Veterinary Medical Association's position.
This article by former FLA President Al Mitchell summarizes the events between 1985-2001 related to the rabies vaccine as it pertains to wolfdogs.
This is AVMA's Compendium on Rabies Prevention and Control from 2003, following the USDA-APHIS's withdrawal in 2001 of their proposed rule to add a definition of the term dog to include all members of the species Canis familiaris, Canis lupus, or any dog-wolf cross.
In 2014, three researchers from Rutgers University submitted this letter to AVMA and three rabies vaccine manufacturers in an attempt to convince them that approving the rabies vaccine is not necessarily supporting ownership of wolfdogs but is necessary for the safety of both the animals and the public. To create a greater amount of pressure on the vaccine manufacturers and AVMA, similar letters (attached within this document) were also sent to several wolf rescue groups throughout the United States, asking them to create a petition for the approval of the rabies vaccine for wolfdogs and to then send the petitions to AVMA and the vaccine manufacturers. In early 2015, the authors also sent a letter (also included here) to the editor of The Bark magazine as well as the Newark, NJ, newspaper Star Ledger. (Copyright 2014 by Julie M. Fagan, Ph.D., Kimberly Davis and Lisa Shatynski [Rutgers University]. Reprinted with permission.)
This link is to a short video meant to accompany the letter by the researchers from Rutgers University referenced above. (Copyright 2014 by Julie M. Fagan, Ph.D., Kimberly Davis and Lisa Shatynski [Rutgers University].)