Dalian, China, is a city free of rabies in recent 20 years, but the annual cost for rabies vaccination still brings an economic burden on society and individuals. We did a retrospective descriptive analysis to analyse the reason for this and try to find some ways to resolve it. A total of 10 028 post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) cases were recorded from January 2016 to December 2017. According to the exposure grades, 32 cases were grade I; 7712 cases were grade II; 2284 cases were grade III. All the patients in the cases were injured by pet dogs without abnormal clinical signs, and 80% of them were home pet dogs. Fifty-two per cent of the pet dogs were vaccinated. All the dogs survived during the PEP vaccination period. The data showed that a considerable proportion of people who did not have exposure risk for rabies had received vaccination. The underlying reasons included social, medical and personal factors. So here we proposed to replace the current ‘five-course’ intramuscular injection with intradermal injection method in the cities free of rabies in China, this can not only achieve effective vaccination but also save resources and eliminate the fear of rabies from victims. Meanwhile we should strengthen communication on rabies knowledge and make a routine evaluation of rabies surveillance system to improve understanding of the risk for rabies from biting animals.