Below is a copy of the letter I have just sent to the Chairs of Massachusetts' Joint Commitee on Municipalities and Regional Government on behalf of The Rabies Challenge Fund.
PERMISSION GRANTED TO CROSS-POST
June 30, 2010
Representative Representative Paul Donato, Co-Chair Senator James Eldridge, Co-Chair
Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
State House Room 540 State House Room 213-A
Boston, MA 02133 Boston, MA 02133
RE: Massachusetts Rabies Medical Exemption Bill, SB 784
Greetings Representative Donato and Senator Eldrige:
On behalf of The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust and the many Massachusetts pet owners who have contacted us, we respectfully request that you write the Rules Committee and ask them to reintroduce SB 784, Senator Steven Panagiotakos’ rabies medical exemption bill.
Chapter 140: §145B of the General Laws of Massachusetts implicitly exempts animals from vaccination under some circumstances in the wording “the animal shall be vaccinated against rabies prior to being discharged if the animal's medical condition permits.”
However, the law does not explicitly state that a medical waiver exempts an animal from the requirement of being currently immunized against rabies.
The states of Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin all have medical exemption clauses for sick animals in their rabies laws, and a bill is currently pending in the California legislature to include a waiver in its statutes.
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. Reintroduction and passage of the medical exemption bill, SB 784, clarifying the circumstances under which sick animals could receive exemptions would allow Massachusetts 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. The State of Maine inserted such an exemption into their 3 year rabies protocol, 7 M.R.S.A., Sec. 3922(3), which became effective in April 2005 -- not one rabid dog has been reported in the more than 5 years since that date.
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 clearly worded medical exemption in Chapter 140: §145B, Massachusetts law imposes an ethical dilemma on veterinarians with seriously ill patients who must either violate their Veterinarian’s Oath and administer a rabies vaccine contrary to the manufacturer’s labeled instructions, or make a recommendation against vaccinating for rabies -- advice which is contrary to the law. Being compelled by law to vaccinate unhealthy animals against rabies also puts veterinarians at risk of being held liable for adverse reactions the animals may suffer, and owners of critically ill animals may decide to not comply with the law rather than jeopardize the lives of their pets by immunizing them.
The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust urges you to write the Rules Committee requesting that SB 784 be reintroduced for passage. You may contact me at the number below if you would like any scientific data on the rabies vaccine or have any questions.
Kris L. Christine
THE RABIES CHALLENGE FUND
cc: Dr. W. Jean Dodds
Dr. Ronald Schultz
Senator Steven Panagiotakos