Responding to veterinary vaccinologist, advocate and owner complaints that over-vaccination with anti-rabies vaccine is risking or causing death in sick and senior dogs, California Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills proposed a medical exemption clause.
This April 5, 2010 amendment to AB2000 seeks to add a medical exemption clause for sick dogs in designated rabies areas. It would include the following language: "(2) A dog exempt from the canine antirabies vaccination shall be kept quarantined as directed by the local health officer, until the dog's medical condition has resolved and the administration of the canine anti-rabies vaccine occurs."
This bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
But how does the state of California define "quarantine?"
Traditionally, this language makes local animal control officers responsible to seize an animal and keep it caged for six months with no social contact beyond food and water. In the case of exempt animals, "quarantine" would mean permanent house arrest.
Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills who is proposing the rabies medical exemption law says this was not his intent.
According to a report by Sacramento Fox40, Mr. Hagman says he's trying to remove the word "quarantine" from the bill so that animals in the care of a licensed veterinarian for acute or chronic illness would not be confiscated. And he doesn't intend for exempt dogs to be housebound, although he says local health officials need the flexibility to put restrictions on them. That may include leashes or muzzles.
"We want them to take precautions and make sure that the dog can't harm anybody else if they're not vaccinated," said Hagman.
So the state of California is walking a fine line between too little public rabies prevention safety at the expense of its population and too much at the expense of its companion animals.
National advocates for rabies law reform led by Kris Christine of Maine and co-founder of The Rabies Challenge Fund are mounting a spirited campaign to help California leaders get it right.
The Rabies Challenge Fund's position is that the quarantine clause in AB2000 for medically exempt dogs should be removed entirely. Some dog groups are ready to accept language substitution such that local health officers "may" direct medically exempt dogs to be quarantined rather than "shall" direct that medically exempt dogs be quarantined -- an option offered by AM Hagman's staff, but which The Rabies Challenge Fund finds unacceptable.
The Rabies Challenge Fund continues to oppose the quarantine clause in AB2000 and seeks its withdrawal.
How you can help.
Call the State of California Senate Rules Committee and call or send an e-mail to all its members telling them to withdraw Paragraph (2) of the amendment pertaining to quarantining medically exemption animals and strike language in Section 121690 (b) of the law authorizing the Health Department to impose annual or biennial rabies vaccinations in "rabies areas."
The phone number for the California Senate Rules Committee is (916) 651-4120
Chair of the Committee is Senator Darrell Steinberg e-mail: Senator.Steinberg@senate.ca.gov Phone: (916) 651-4006
Vice-chair Sam Aanestad Senator.Aanestad@senate.ca.gov (916) 651-4004
Gilbert Cedillo Senator.Cedillo@senate.ca.gov (916) 651-4022
Robert Dutton Senator.Dutton@senate.ca.gov (916) 651-4031
Jenny Oropeza Senator.Oropeza@senate.ca.gov (916) 651-4028
Bill Co-Sponsor Assembly Member Curt Hagman Assemblymember.Hagman@assembly.ca.gov (916) 319-2060