To characterize human exposures to vaccines intended for animals, evaluate the human risk due to these exposures and determine whether there is sufficient surveillance in place to monitor them. Retrospective analysis of surveillance data (2000–2009). Information collected by poison specialists during calls reporting human exposure to an animal vaccine product, made to one of the 57 United States Poison Control Centers. Data from the National Poison Data System were analysed to determine the number of calls due to human exposures to animal vaccines, and descriptive statistics were generated to characterize the exposures by age, gender, medical outcome, exposure site, exposure route, vaccine type and intended species, aetiologic agent, call date and exposure reason. Overall, the human health effects were minor, primarily due to unintentional parenteral exposure. Less than 15% of the reports were classified as occupational, and 80% of the exposures took place outside of a workplace or healthcare facility. Almost 60% of calls were due to exposure to the West Nile Virus vaccine; the others distributed among a variety of vaccines. Unintentional exposure to animal vaccines appears to occur almost exclusively among untrained individuals who may benefit from more effective education about the risks and benefits of administering vaccines. Improved reporting of adverse outcomes is essential to adequately define the extent of human exposure and risks associated with availability of new vaccines.