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NEW MEXICO--Rabies Medical Exemptions, Urgent Action Alert: In order to get a rabies medical exemption bill filed this session, legislators must hear from the public in force.

What You Can Do to Help

Please find your legislators' contact information here http://www.nmlegis.g...atorsearch.aspx and ask them to file a rabies medical exemption bill on your behalf and ask all the pet owners in New Mexico you know to do the same. Despite the survey results showing that the majority (55%) of New Mexico's veterinarians do NOT OPPOSE rabies waivers, the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association's Board voted to oppose any such legislation that may be filed (see letter below from The Rabies Challenge Fund). If your pet suffers from lymphoma, auto-immune hemolytic anemia, metasticized cancer, grand-mal seizures or is undergoing chemotherapy, they are required under the law to have a rabies booster despite their medical condition, and the NMVMA's Board voted to maintain the status quo refusing such critically ill animals waivers. You may want to call your veterinarian's office to find out if they voted for or against rabies waivers.

If you wish to express your concern to the Executive Director of the NMVMA and ask the Board to reverse its decision to oppose rabies exemption legislation, contact Tamara Spooner at (505) 867-6373 [email protected]. You can also contact the two New Mexico State veterinarians and tell them to support rabies exemption legislation. Their contact information is Dr. Paul Ettestad (505) 827-0006 [email protected] and Dr. Dave Fly [email protected] (505) 841-6163.

The time to act on your pet's behalf is now.


January 25, 2011

Dr. Dave E. Fly, State Veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad, State Public Health Veterinarian
New Mexico Livestock Board New Mexico Department of Health
300 San Mateo NE P.O. Box 26110
Albuquerque, NM 87109 Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110

RE: Rabies Medical Waivers Survey of New Mexico Veterinarians

Greetings Drs. Fly and Ettestad:

After reviewing the results of the statewide rabies vaccine waivers survey, designed in conjunction with the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association (NMVMA), which was sent to New Mexico veterinarians, The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust would like to address, clarify, and elaborate on several points in the report.

The survey highlights on the first page that 45% of the respondents were against, 37% were in favor, and 18% undecided on the issue of rabies vaccine waivers, demonstrating that the majority (55%) of New Mexico’s veterinarians are not opposed to rabies waivers. In light of the 55% majority of New Mexico’s veterinarians who are not opposed to rabies waivers for sick animals, it was surprising to hear from NMVMA’s Executive Director, Tamara Spooner, that the Board voted to oppose any proposed medical exemption legislation.

Between 1984 and 2010, your survey cites 6 dogs and 10 cats being diagnosed with rabies in New Mexico; however, the report failed to mention that during that same period, 147 bats, 92 skunks, and 37 fox were also confirmed rabid in the state. This is important in light of the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data documents bats as the primary vector for human rabies transmission in the United States, not dogs or cats.

Your survey states that “Worldwide, dogs are the source of 99% of human rabies deaths.” This is absolutely not the case in the United States. According to the CDC’s Cases of Rabies in Human Beings in the United States, by Circumstances of Exposure and Rabies Virus Variant, 1995-2009, of the 46 human cases of rabies reported from 1995 through 2009, not one was transmitted by a dog or cat in the United States and not one of those cases was in New Mexico. Out of those human cases, rabies was transmitted by 34 bats, 1 fox, 1 raccoon, and 1 mongoose --- the others were contracted outside U.S. borders.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s 2010 Vaccine Guidelines estimates that in “developed” nations such as the U.S., 50-70% of the pet animal population is unvaccinated. This large estimated percentage of non-compliance with rabies vaccination requirements compromises the concept of herd immunity existing in New Mexico. Concern was noted in the survey that legalizing rabies vaccine waivers may result in “decreasing herd immunity.” According to Dr. Ronald Schultz of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine, a member of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Task Force and the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccine Guidelines Task Force, herd immunity is achieved when 75% or more of an animal population is vaccinated. Given the small percentage of animals that would qualify for exemptions, it is highly unlikely that they would pose a real threat to the current level of herd immunity in New Mexico.

“[M]any veterinarians had concerns about animals with certain medical conditions receiving vaccine…” according to your survey, and the following conditions were specified: anaphylactic reaction, lymphoma, neoplasia, immune-mediated disease, immunosuppression, age, neurologic conditions, and pets undergoing chemotherapy. These animals may not respond to rabies vaccination as required by law (noted in the report, these pets “might lack the ability to develop an appropriate immune response”), and their health may be jeopardized if they are not allowed waivers. The Postmarketing Surveillance of Rabies Vaccines for Dogs to Evaluate Safety and Efficacy published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association April 1, 2008 issue Vol. 232, No. 7, claims that "[r]abies vaccines are the most common group of biological products identified in adverse event reports received by the CVB [Center for Veterinary Biologics]."

Rabies vaccine labels state that they are for healthy animals, and some elaborate further that: “[a] protective immune response may not be elicited if animals are incubating an infectious disease are malnourished or parasitized are stressed due to shipment or environmental conditions are otherwise immunocompromised.” Veterinarians immunizing unhealthy pets, as New Mexico’s rabies code requires, are forced to do so contrary to vaccine manufacturers’ labeled instructions, against the recommendations of the CDC’s National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians’ (of which Dr. Ettestad is a member) Rabies Compendium, counter to sound veterinary medical practice, and possibly in violation of the veterinary oath.

It is clear from your survey results that the veterinarians polled would not abuse the right to exempt sick animals, and the 13 states that currently do have medical exemptions have found no grounds to repeal them. The rabies endemic State of Maine included a medical exemption clause in their canine rabies regulations in April 2005. The Maine State Veterinarian, Dr. Donald Hoenig (207) 287-7615, confirmed today that no rabid dogs have been reported in the nearly 6 years since the clause went into effect.

As in our July 23, 2010 letter, The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust respectfully requests that your departments submit legislation to include a medical exemption clause in New Mexico’s current rabies code, Title 7 Chapter 4 Part 2, and that you consider medical exemption language such as that contained in Florida’s statutes, Title XLVI Chapter 828 as follows:

“A dog, cat, or ferret is exempt from vaccination against rabies if a licensed veterinarian has examined the animal and has certified in writing that at the time vaccination would endanger the animal's health because of its age, infirmity, disability, illness, or other medical considerations. An exempt animal must be vaccinated against rabies as soon as its health permits.”

Please contact me at the number or e-mail below if you have any questions.


Kris L. Christine
Founder, Co-Trustee
Duration of Immunity Study for Rabies Vaccine - Rabies Challenge Fund
[email protected]

cc: Dr. W. Jean Dodds
Dr. Ronald Schultz
Representative Gail Chasey
Senator Steve Fischmann
New Mexico Legislature

Tamara Spooner – Executive Director, New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association ([email protected])
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