Hipster pet owners are increasingly refusing to vaccinate their animals, in the latest twist in the spread of the "anti-vax" movement, veterinarians in the United States have said.

Vets in fashionable areas of New York are among those reporting a significant rise in the number of pet owners who are rejecting immunisation because of fear propagated by fringe groups who publicise side-effects.

The growing movement prompted the influential US wellness website, Care2, to issue a warning to anyone considering not vaccinating their pets. "Given that preventable diseases like rabies pose a serious danger to anyone around the afflicted animal, vaccine denial flies in the face of established veterinary medicine, animal welfare and community health," it said.

Stephanie Liff, owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, of Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen, New York, dismissed the fears over vaccinations. "It's a little different. My patients eat dirt. They eat poop," she said. "I had a client, concerned about an autistic child, who didn't want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason [autism]. But we've never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don't think you could."

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Dr Amy Ford, another veterinarian, of Boerum Hill's Veterinary Wellness Centre, Brooklyn, told the Brooklyn Eagle that "it's actually much more common in the hipstery areas".

John Clifton lives in New York's Upper West Side, and runs the Stop the Shots website. His activism was inspired by the illness of Sparky, his Australian terrier which was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 at the age of 6.

The dog's vet advised against vaccinations after chemotherapy treatment. Clifton researched the issue, and concluded that there were multiple dangers associated with vaccinations.

"Most pets today are being given too many vaccinations too often," he writes, admitting that he does not have a scientific background.

His beliefs are supported by Dana Scott, the editor in chief of Dogs Naturally magazine, which publishes a vaccine guide to "know if your vet is vaccinating your dog too often".

But some vets caution that the trend could have lasting implications.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association notes: "The widespread use of vaccinations ... has prevented death and disease in millions of animals."

- Telegraph Group Ltd

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