May 21, 2010

California Legislators Struggle With Rabies Exemption Language

Their hearts are in the right place, maybe, but California legislators continue to struggle with language in a new law to permit rabies medical exemption to companion animals who are too ill for anti-rabies vaccine.

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: Phone: (916) 651-4006
Vice-chair Sam Aanestad (916) 651-4004
Gilbert Cedillo (916) 651-4022
Robert Dutton (916) 651-4031
Jenny Oropeza (916) 651-4028
Bill Co-Sponsor Assembly Member Curt Hagman (916) 319-2060


Jan Rasmusen said...

Good post. I have had several talks with aides at Assemplyman Hagman's office. They have told me they want to remove or modify the language regarding quarantine because of public outcry. The Calif. Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)is involved in talks with them as well. I believe that Hagman's bill is well intentioned, and I very much support legislation supporting medical exemptions. I think the problem now is that the CVMA and the Health Dept. are concerned about liability if an exempt dog somehow get rabies and bites someone. Of course, rabies is all but nonexistent in CA dogs, but still, people worry. Learn more about rabies stats in CA at Learn more about vaccinating more safely at If you doubt the danger of vaccinating sick animals, please see my article on the subject at

Louie's Mom said...

I hope their hearts are in the right place and that we can get this straightened out. I do worry about requiring these dogs to be muzzled or restrained, as these pets are clearly no threat to public safety.

The legislation wording isn't really considering any of the newest research or technologies that can be used to show immunity to the rabies vaccine, which usually extends far beyond the three year vaccination cycle currently required by law in most states.

Tests (called titers) are available that can show that these pets still have ample immunity to rabies from their earlier vaccinations. Why can't the law allow this testing to be accepted as proof of immunity in lieu of vaccination for health reasons?

pupster28 said...

Do these politicians know more than Dr.Morris DVM, Dr. DoddsDVM, and Dr. SchultzPhD.....all board certified teaching and research academician's?

What kind of life would a dog (my dog, your dog, laura's..) who has become medically stabilized by good food, eliminating stress, proper administration of meds, and in general--constant TLC..what kind of life would that dog live in quarantine?
BTW, if the pet died while in quarantine...would these politicians then be at risk for a lawsuit due to change in living conditions and the stress it invokes which brings flare ups of disease??

AND then the economics...who would pay for this care if it had to be done in a facility, because of course they would then have to monitor it....the state?