July 23, 2010

New Mexico Calls for Rabies Medical Exemption for Pets




New Mexico pet owners are calling for a rabies medical exemption clause to be added to the New Mexico Code Title 7 Chapter 4 Part 2 §7.4.2.8 which defines rabies control and prevention ordinances.

Chryssa Charalambides, a New Mexico resident, launched the effort when her Great Dane, Dalia, was diagnosed with two autoimmune conditions within the last year and half. Dalia suffers vaccine induced Immune Mediated Polyarthritis and Addison’s disease, diagnosed in 2009. Dalia's veterinarian has determined that further immunization with rabies vaccine would have serious and possibly fatal consequences for the dog.

The Rabies Challenge Fund provides the stake in the ground for rabies medical reform in New Mexico. Since its inception, it has been instrumental in reforming rabies laws to waive rabies vaccine under certain conditions in Maine, Alabama and California. So far a total of 14 states nationwide provide exemption for sick and senior dogs and cats on the advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Excepts from a letter by Kris Christine, The Rabies Challenge Fund make the case:

New Mexico’s Code requiring rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats, Title 7 Chapter 4 Part 2 §7.4.2.8, does not contain a provision to exempt unhealthy animals whose veterinarians have determined their medical conditions should preclude vaccination.

The states of Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and California all have medical exemption clauses for sick animals in their rabies laws.

The labels on rabies vaccines state that they are for “the vaccination of healthy cats, dogs…,” and there are medical conditions for which vaccination can jeopardize the life or well-being of an animal. Passage of a medical exemption clause would allow New Mexico’s veterinarians to write waivers for animals -- such as those who have had anaphylactic reactions to vaccination, or suffer from cancer, kidney/liver failure, hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, grand mal seizures, and chronic autoimmune disorders -- whose medical conditions would be exacerbated by rabies vaccination. 

In the more than 5 years since Maine’s medical exemption went into effect, not one rabid dog has been reported in the state. Colorado’s data reflect the same -- there have been no rabid dogs reported in the state since passage of their medical exemption in July 2008. 

Without a provision for medical exemptions in Title 7 Chapter 4 Part 2 §7.4.2.8, New Mexico’s rabies immunization code thrusts an ethical quandary on veterinarians with seriously ill patients -- they must either violate their Veterinarian’s Oath and administer a rabies vaccine contrary to sound medical practice and against the vaccine manufacturer’s labeled instructions, or recommend their clients break the law by not immunizing their unhealthy pets against rabies.

Being compelled by law to vaccinate sick dogs and cats against rabies in order for their clients to comply with the code also puts New Mexico’s veterinarians at risk of being held liable for any adverse reactions the animals may suffer after administering a vaccine inconsistently with the labeled directions. Owners of critically ill dogs may choose not to comply with the law rather than jeopardize the lives of their pets and then fail to license their dogs to avoid detection.

You can help! 

Contact your legislators. Ask everyone you know to contact your legislators. Permission granted to cross-post.

New Mexico Legislature


Dr. Tamara Spooner – Executive Director, New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association

New Mexico Legislators http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislatorsearch.aspx
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