Vets want rabies vaccination laws enforced

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A group of veterinarians in Selma are hoping to get help from the city and county to enforce the rabies vaccination law in Alabama.

Dr. Frances Kendrick, owner of Valley Creek Veterinary Hospital, said pet owners are already required by state law to get dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated, but a large portion of people in Selma and Dallas County are not.

“The law is already on the books. The fact is we have not had the law enforced in so many years,” Kendrick said. “There are a lot of people that are not compliant.”

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Kendrick, was the rabies officer for Dallas County last year, said it was an effort she started because there are so many pets that go unvaccinated in Selma and Dallas County.

Dr. Mike Wells, who is the rabies officer for Dallas County this year, is also pushing the effort.

“We know that we’re not going to ever vaccinate all the pets in Dallas County. I would say we don’t vaccinate 20 to 30 percent of the pets in Dallas County,” Wells said.

“There are dogs and cats running everywhere. If you don’t vaccinate a certain percentage of them, you don’t really have a barrier against rabies because if it ever gets started, it can go right through the entire population.”

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, there have been seven laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies so far in 2017. In 2016, there were 77.

None of them were in Dallas County, but Kendrick said it is always a possibility.

“Protecting your pet is essentially protecting yourself. Rabies is an incurable disease. It is a fatal disease. Pets every year in the state of Alabama die from rabies,” Kendrick said. “We have a lot of wildlife in our area that carry rabies. We see this every year. We see bats and raccoons. Foxes have been rabies positive animals.”

She is hoping to get it enforced better by having law enforcement officers with the city and county write citations requiring people to get their pets vaccinated.

Kendrick said the responsibility has fallen on the rabies officer in year’s past.

“It didn’t make sense to me why veterinarians were supposed to be the ones that were the enforcers of the law,” she said. “That’s just not a well-received program. People get upset about that. People don’t like folks nosing around in their yards. I wouldn’t want someone snooping around my yard, so I was trying to find a better way. Why couldn’t we get law enforcement that already exist to be the ones that enforce the law?”

What she and others are proposing would allow police officers to cite people for the violation. Kendrick said the citation would be no more than double the amount it costs to have a pet vaccinated.

Kendrick said the county is already on board. They are just waiting on getting the city on board as well and are hoping to meet with officials in the coming weeks. Kendrick said she hopes to have this all worked out by springtime when there are rabies clinics going around the county to let people vaccinate their pets at a reduced cost.