County approves ordinance requiring vets to report rabies shots

Jackson County Veterinarians are now required to report rabies vaccinations to the county's Health and Human Services Department to ensure the animals are licensed.

The vaccinations must be reported within 60 days. If the county finds dogs in that list that are not licensed, officials will send a notification and license application to those owners.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners passed the ordinance today. County officials believe the move will provide a boost in revenue through licensing fees and to give animals who run away a better chance of being returned to their owners.

"More licensed dogs in our county means more dogs getting returned to their owners more quickly," said Barbara Talbert, Jackson County Animal Care & Control manager.

Licensing revenue accounts for about one-third of Animal Care & Control's budget, or about $443,000. It costs $20, $35 or $49 for one-, two- or three-year dog licenses, respectively, Jackson County's website shows. Fees for non-neutered animals are $30, $53 or $75.

"We're not hiding that we're looking for increased revenue," Commissioner Don Skundrick said. "There's not doubt about it. We are."

County officials said there are about 21,000 licensed dogs in the county, about 40 percent of the total estimated number of dogs.

Today's public hearing drew some stark opposition to the ordinance's passage, with several speaking out.

Gail Colbern, of Green Springs Veterinary Service, said the ordinance will create a public health risk, as it discourages pet owners from getting rabies shots for their animals. Colbern said she works in rural areas where the presence of rabies-carrying animals like foxes and raccoons is higher, which means an increased risk of unvaccinated dogs getting the disease.

"I just don't think this is the best way of going about getting these animals licensed," Colbern said.

Stacy Motschenbacher, who co-owns the Animal Clinic of Rogue River, said it will also mean increased costs to veterinarians. She's concerned the ordinance will send business to nearby Josephine County.

"There are several clinics within 10 to 15 minutes of us in Josephine County," Motschenbacher said.

She added the ordinance could make veterinarians look like enforcers to the public, a role she said they aren't trained for.

"I just don't think it's up to the vets to be the policemen of this," she said. "That's not part of the veterinary oath."

County officials said the ordinance's passage is a trial period and will be evaluated after a year.

Jackson Baures, manager for Jackson County Environmental Public Health, said that Lane, Klamath and Multnomah counties have similar ordinances. Multnomah County veterinarians resisted the ordinance when it was first passed, but later switched their position.

"There are no data that showed rabies vaccinations decreased," Baures said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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