December 12, 2009

Bell County Blocks Public Comment on Rabies Law Reform

While talking about the horrors of rabies, Dunn added intensity to the meeting when he wagged his finger at Dr. Szeremi and said, 'You may not have practiced long enough to know this, young lady.'

In his presidency, Harry Truman earned the moniker, "Give 'em hell, Harry" for his dealings with Congress.

President Truman denied this.

"I give them the truth and it feels like hell."

Since May, when we first reported that Bell County Commissioners were debating the idea to conform the rabies inoculation protocol with state and national guidelines, they have been given "the truth" by local pet owners, Texas veterinary professionals, national experts on current veterinary vaccinology and rabies reform advocates from Texas and nationwide.

It must feel like hell.

One more time, they have resorted to stealth policy-making in order to avoid public comment.

According to a report in the Temple Daily Telegram print edition, the Bell County commissioner's workshop held in November saw Warren Dunn, DVM, the good old boy defending now outdated rabies laws he helped to develop, wagging his finger in the face of Dr. Laura Szeremi, a Killeen, TX veterinarian, who has spent five years arguing for Killeen and Bell County to adjust its regressive rabies ordinances.

Yet, for fear of public comment, the Temple Daily Telegram refused to publish the report on this important public meeting between Bell County Commissioners' and Dr. Dunn with Killeen city officials and Dr. Szeremi to its website.

I find that both appalling and unsurprising. So I am reprinting the TDT report in its entirety.

Rabies decision closer

BELTON - Pet owners frustrated by Bell County's strict rabies vaccine ordinance should know by the end of the year whether changes are afoot.

Bell County Commissioners Court met this week with local veterinarians, a Killeen city attorney and council member and a pet owner to discuss the county's annual vaccination policy. The county requires pets to be vaccinated annually while state law recommends rabies boosters a minimum of every three years.

'We've heard enough information to make a decision,' County Judge Jon Burrows said Tuesday without elaborating on what that decision might be. He said county officials are in the process of discussing options with an attorney.

What commissioners heard on Monday was a mixture of rhetoric and facts about rabies vaccines. At one point, Dr. Warren Dunn, the veterinarian commissioners credit with helping develop the county's policy, raised his voice when addressing Dr. Laura Szeremi, the lone veterinarian speaking against his recommendation.

While talking about the horrors of rabies, Dunn added intensity to the meeting when he wagged his finger at Dr. Szeremi and said, 'You may not have practiced long enough to know this, young lady.'

Dunn said his recommendation is based 'first and foremost' out of a commitment to public health. He said rabies is too serious a disease to take chances with and that, although the policy is 'a little overkill,' it is warranted because of the potential danger to innocent human life.

Dunn said he uses the three-year vaccine with annual boosters because 'it's the best out there.' He said requiring annual shots provided a 'good buffer zone' against the disease and had nothing to do with making a profit.

'We're losing money giving rabies shots,' Dunn said. 'I don't want to hear we're doing it for the money.'

Dr. Szeremi said she is interested in having the county adopt the state standard, which she said is essentially the national standard. She said Killeen, with its fluid military population, regularly runs into pet vaccination issues because of the county's strict policy.

Dr. Szeremi argued that giving pets more frequent vaccinations doesn't protect the public. She pointed out that there has been no explosion in rabies cases over the past 25 years even though 32 states migrated to three-year vaccination intervals.

George Fox, who serves on a Killeen animal advisory board, said Killeen would just like the authority to have its own discussion about its city ordinance.

Under the law Killeen can only adopt Bell County's ordinance or one more strict, similar to what Bell County has done with state law.

Fox said he wants to have the ability to make the decision that is best for him and his pet in consultation with a veterinarian.

Killeen City Councilwoman JoAnn Purser said people with house dogs that have little chance of being infected with rabies shouldn't be required to get annual boosters.

Dunn suggested that veterinarians have discretion now about whether to skip vaccinations in a dog that does not need it or is at risk for a shot. He said he has done it and simply makes a notation in the veterinary file.

'He's breaking the law,' Dr. Szeremi said. 'And he's asking his clients to break the law.'

Burrows said he likes the idea of getting the decision into the hands of veterinarians.

FEEL FREE TO POST, CROSS POST and PASS IT ON. Also send messages in support of aligning rabies ordinances with state and national standards to Bell County Commissioners:

Commissioners Cortese, Brown, Lange, Fisher, Miller, and Garza
County Attorney Richard Miller
District Attorney Henry Garza
Bell County Commissioners Court
101 East Central Avenue
Belton, TX 76513

Here are previous posts on this initiative.

Let's give 'em hell one more time!


Anonymous said...

In a word, this is just "wrong". If the community has no voice in the decision maybe everyone should move and pay their taxes elsewhere.

Really, I commend the lone Vet. and others who are at least trying to be heard.

One $13 Rabies vaccine killed my pet who just happened to be my feline soul mate. I won't ever forget and I will die trying to bring about change.

Anonymous said...

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