New state law requires rabies shots for cats

August 25, 2018

SPRINGFIELD – A new state law passed earlier this month will require cats to be registered and vaccinated for rabies.

Senate Bill 2270, signed into law Aug. 7 by Gov. Bruce Rauner, amended the state’s Animal Control Act to reflect the change.

Effective Jan. 1, owners must vaccinate their cats for rabies and keep them updated from the age of 4 months. The second rabies shot must be done within 1 year of the first vaccination.

Feral cats won’t have to be vaccinated, but if they are brought to a veterinarian to be neutered or spayed, they must have the rabies shot, and whoever brought the cat to the vet will be responsible for paying for it.

As with dogs, counties will be required to issue a vaccination certificate and a rabies tag, which they will give to veterinarians to distribute.

Most have not yet figured out the details.

“The procedure for shots and registration will be just like for dogs, but the county hasn’t set prices yet,” Whiteside County Health Administrator Beth Fiorini said. “I can’t imagine it would cost more than what you pay for dogs.”

In Whiteside County, registration and a 1-year rabies tag is $15 for a dog that is neutered or spayed and $40 for an unaltered dog. For a 3-year rabies shot, the fee is $30 for fixed dogs and $85 for unaltered dogs. With the 3-year shot, owners can choose to break up the fee over 3 years.

The cost of rabies shots for cats varies among veterinary clinics, ranging from $20 to $40. That is in addition to the cost of an office visit that generally runs between $25 and $50.

Whiteside County law says that anyone violating the registration and rabies laws can be fined a minimum of $200.

Residents were reminded this week of the importance of staying up to date with pets’ rabies shots. A family in Rock Falls must quarantine its two unvaccinated dogs for 6 months after bats in their rental home possibly exposed them to rabies. Another family in Prophetstown was forced to euthanized its unvaccinated dog and two cats after a bat in their home tested positive for rabies.

“Registration and rabies shots are the law, and what has happened in the county this week demonstrates why people need to obey the law,” Fiorini said.

Another part of the same state bill also amended the Humane Care for Animals Act. Effective immediately, the change makes it easier for law enforcement to rescue animals that are left in hot cars or left outdoors in life-threatening conditions.

Officers can take immediate action without having to immediately explain their decision to take temporary custody of an animal. If an owner can’t be reached, officers will leave information about the animal’s location. Another problem was that officers weren’t sure who would pick up the tab. The law now clearly states that the owners will be responsible for any resulting veterinary care costs.

Another state animal welfare bill is likely to be revived in the Senate during the November veto session. House Bill 4191, known as the Good Samaritan Bill, would allow citizens to forcibly remove a pet from a hot, locked vehicle without the fear of criminal or civil charges.

The bill previously passed in the House, but was turned back in the Senate. Thirteen states, including Wisconsin and Indiana, already have a Good Samaritan law.

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