September 08, 2007

Animal Law, Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, Rabies

Interesting little factoid popped up online last night:

In 2002, Texans owned some 12 million dogs and cats. Only 50% of dog owners and 25% of cat owners vaccinated family pets. TDHS extended the interval between rabies shots. Four years later, there are twice as many dogs and cats, there has been no rabies epidemic and irresponsible pet owners have not changed. The Center for Disease Control did announce that the USA is free of canine rabies - no dog to dog transmission in tow years.

News for cats and dogs - CDC Says US Free Of Canine Rabies

So there is exactly zero evidence fear of rabies epidemic is founded when companion animals are exempt from repeat vaccination. Yet, TDHS responded to our request for a rabies medical exemption by tightening the rules, rather than relaxing them. This was virtually guaranteed when Sidwa told them that in one state that grants rabies medical exemption, a veterinarian who does not believe in vaccinations, wrote exemptions for all her patients. The message they send regarding veterinary discretion is, "if we give you an inch, you'll take a mile."

I think it's the other way around.

For instance, TDHS proposes to change the language that defines the relationship between pet and human from "owner" to "custodian. A rose is a rose is a rose, right?

(6) [ (5) ] Custodian--A person or agency which feeds, shelters, harbors, owns, has possession or control of , or has the responsibility to control an animal.

Not so when you look under the tablecloth. There are no small changes in the letter of the law.

Many people consider their pets as family members. Law traditionally treats pets as property, a commodity with market value, that can be bought and sold.

On the one hand, there are Animal Rights Activists, primarily People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Animal rights people want to treat pets like people insofar as the rule of law. No one should have the right to own animals. Animals should run wild and free in their natural state. They're usually raising money to lobby for tougher laws.

On the other hand, people who are interested in animal welfare, are actually helping animals, working in shelters, fostering and rehoming rescued animals, paying for medical treatment and donating time and effort.

When lawmakers attach new meaning to owning animals, such as the term "guardian" or "custodian, which confers legal status, government can conceivably subject pet owners to mandatory standards of care. It gives state more power to intervene (read interfere) with common ownership responsibilities - keeping, feeding, breeding, vaccinating and so on.

From legal intervention comes mandatory spay and neuter laws, mandatory breeding limits on home-raised pets, banning so-called dangerous breeds.

Based on what just occurred in Williamson County to a family pet that happened to be a pit bull, their direction is pretty obvious.

News for cats and dogs - Dog Euthanized At Shelter After Owner Claims Her

If we do not nip this in the bud right now, we will have state government breathing down our necks in all manner of animal welfare issues in which they have no knowledge, experience or business.

In the meantime, the lack of rabies exemption and stronger enforcement makes life miserable for responsible pet owners and does nothing to improve compliance in irresponsible pet owners.

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