Fox 29 News Report: Rabies Alert

Right now Palm Beach County is under the largest rabies alert in history. This year there have been 35 confirmed cases of wild animals found with the deadly disease. Although this year no cats or dogs have contracted the virus you are still required to get your pets vaccinated.

It's the law, you have few options, Depending on where you live in Florida you are required to get your pets vaccinated once a year, or once every three years. But now new research is showing millions of pets are being over vaccinated. Some vets are starting to realize the drugs meant to protect are killing beloved pets every year.

It doesn't matter if they're big or small, Veterinarian Art Malernee always has a gentle touch. He's been keeping pets healthy for the past 30 years in Delray Beach.

Dr Art Malernee/Veterinarian: "Through the years I've given thousands and thousands of rabies vaccines."

But these days he's giving out less rabies shots. Under Palm Beach County law he's allowed to vaccinate once every three years instead of once a year.

Dr Art Malernee/Veterinarian: "The verterinarian gets to determine, on an honor system, how often your dog or cat is vaccinated for rabies."

This is why Dr. Malernee isn't forcing pets to be vaccinated every year. These lumps are cancerous tumors caused by the vaccine. In fact some researchers say one out of every one thousand vaccinated pets will become sick and possibly die.

For years the vets would put the vaccination right between the shoulder blades in cats, but then they started noticing a lot of problems - cancerous tumors, so now more and more vets are actually putting that vaccination back here in the lower portion of the leg - that way if cancer does pop up, they can remove the entire leg and save the cat.

Research shows dogs are affected differently - less tumors, but some contract an autoimmune disease that causes blood cells to disappear. 50% affected die

Dr Art Malernee/Veterinarian: "We now know that giving vaccines year after year after year is not only not needed, that it's harmful to the pet."

But not all vets agree and on the Treasure Coast, pet owners have no choice - pets must be vaccinated every year. Some say there isn't enough proof to stop the yearly vaccinations. Public Health Officials go a step further and say the issue is black and white.

Dianne Suave/Animal Care & Control: "There is no option with this, there is absolutely no option, it is the law."

Dianne Suave runs Palm Beach County's Animal Care and Control. She's aware of the vaccine concerns, but her biggest concern is the spread of rabies.

Dianne Suave/Animal Care & Control: "Rabies is probably one of the most serious issues that we have right now. This is a 100% fatal virus."

There is no doubt the vaccine does save lives, but opponents say some vets are being forced to make a choice between good medicine and profit.

Dr Art Malernee/Veterinarian: "It's always about the money. It's always about the money."

One of these vials cost 75 cents, but a visit to the vet averages $100. Requiring a yearly visit is profitable. Only requiring a shot once every three years can be financially devastating.

Dr Art Malernee/Veterinarian: "Once a veterinarian decides that he's not going to vaccinate every year, his take home income drops 71%."

Dr Malernee's practice is suffering. His only hope is the medicine he gives out to save lives will not take them.

It's also important to point out the rabies vaccine should not be given to pets who are ill or very old. It could kill them in a matter of days. The county will allow your pet not to get vaccinated if your vet agrees and contacts them.