Dear Mr. Henderson,
In 1920, a precedent was set by a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the case Nicchia vs New York. This precedent recognized the unique public health risk posed by keeping pets, and allowed the state to regulate those pets by requiring licensing tied to rabies vaccinations. Keeping licensing tied to vaccinations is of utmost importance even today. However, it is all too often forgotten in misguided attempts to solve all animal-related issues with pet licensing legislation.
The provisions in the 8th Draft of the animal control ordinance that will undermine the primary reason the courts allowed states to regulate animals in the first place (to ensure that those animals are vaccinated for rabies) are seen in the following sections: 91.023 (B), which requires veterinarians to turn over documentation of rabies vaccinations to the designee (MAS) of the Health Department, and Appendix A, Fees, which sets a higher licensing fee for dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. If this 8th Draft is passed into law with these two provisions, the Louisville Metro area will be at a greater risk for a rabies outbreak than at any time in its past. Why?
Section 91.023 (B) requires veterinarians to turn over their records of every animal vaccinated for rabies at their clinics to Metro Animal Services (MAS). There has already been an attempt to enforce this provision under current law: veterinarians have received letters from the Health Department requiring them to send documentation of rabies vaccinations to the Health Department's designee, MAS.  You are probably aware that not all persons who have their pets vaccinated against rabies also have those pets licensed. Some simply cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets, and thus choose to ignore the licensing requirement because they cannot afford the higher licensing fee for unaltered pets. These people are the ones who will be hardest hit by the new requirement for veterinarians to act as "Big Brother" for MAS. As they begin to be cited and fined for lack of compliance with licensing, based on rabies vaccination records, word will spread that MAS is able to obtain such records. Those who cannot afford to alter their pets will either go out of county for rabies vaccinations, or will simply forego those vaccinations entirely.
A recent article in the Courier-Journal (published 8/25/06) discussed the public health risk associated with rabies. Currently, rabies is creeping across the country. It is currently in raccoons on the Virginia/Ohio border and it is headed this way. Passing a law which will have the ultimate effect of discouraging rabies vaccinations at a time when a known rabies outbreak is approaching our area is the absolute worst thing the Metro Council could possibly do.
I am writing therefore, to ask that you support instead lower licensing fees that are not tied to reproductive status, but which are instead linked only to whether or not the pet owner has obtained the necessary rabies vaccination. Doing so will put the primary purpose of Animal Control--protecting the public against rabies by requiring and enforcing rabies vaccinations--back in the forefront where it belongs.
Karen Brinkley