A three-year rabies vaccination should help Maryland reduce its rabies problem by encouraging more pet owners to bring in their animals, state health officials said yesterday.

Dr. Kenneth Crawford, the state's chief veterinarian, said that Maryland's rabies vaccination clinics will be required to use a three-year vaccine recently developed by a Nebraska company. In the past, pets had to be vaccinated every year.

Approximately 140 instances of rabies were reported in the state in 1982, mostly in raccoons and skunks. A rabid fox and groundhog were also found.

Montgomery County reported 65 cases of wildlife rabies during 1982, while 36 cases were identified in Allegany County and 24 in Washington County. One case was reported in Baltimore and three in Baltimore County.

Recent studies have shown that the number of rabid cats exceeds the number of rabid dogs by 20 percent. Crawford said the new vaccine, called Rabguard-TC, is the only effective three-year vaccine on the market for cats.

No cases of rabid dogs or cats have been identified in Maryland, Crawford said. But the veterinarian said that as rabies spreads to raccoons living in city and suburban areas there will be an increased risk of pets contracting the disease.