By Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The anti-vaccination movement that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic appears to also apply to dog owners, increasing the risk of disease for dogs, their owners and their vets, according to a new study.
The study of Canine Vaccination Hesitancy (CVH) by Boston University's School of Public Health was released on Aug. 26. It found 37% of owners consider dog vaccines to be unsafe, 22% of dog owners view them as ineffective, and 30% deem them unnecessary.
In all, 53% of dog owners held one of these three views, according to the study, which was conducted in partnership with the market research and data analytics company YouGov.
"We knew that Canine Vaccine Hesitancy existed because of our anecdotal and lived in experiences. We didn't know how pervasive it was," assistant professor Matt Motta, the primary author of the study, told Reuters. He believes the study is the first of its kind.
The rabies shot for canines is one of the only vaccines mandated in many U.S. states.
However, veterinarians also try to persuade dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against other diseases. In California, vets recommend vaccines against parvovirus, canine hepatitis and distemper.
"If there are more unvaccinated dogs out there, the risk of disease transmission grows and likewise for veterinarian professionals like my sister, for all of us who may come into contact with unvaccinated pets, we are potentially at risk of getting sick," Motta said.
Todd Calsyn, a veterinarian at Laurel Pet Hospital in West Hollywood, said he was at first surprised that hesitancy was so great, but that the findings squared with questions he has received from dog owners.
"I do think in this environment with the COVID vaccine and with everything that's going on ... it's starting to be getting projected on the pets," Calsyn said.
A UNICEF report in April found people all over the world lost confidence in the importance of routine childhood vaccines against killer diseases like measles and polio during the COVID pandemic.
Patty Sosa, 42, a dog owner from Laguna Beach, described the study results as "shocking."
"You're trying to do your best but the other person refuses to do their part," Sosa said. "It's not fun. Not fun."
(Reporting by Sandra Stojanovic, Rollo Ross and Jorge Garcia in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Berkrot)