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Commission OKs new rabies rules
Resolution requires animals to be current on shots
new deh county commission rabies pic web
The Barton County Commission Monday morning approved new guidelines about vaccinating animals against rabies. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

 What a difference one word makes. That is what it boiled down to in the new rabies vaccination resolution approved by the Barton County Commission Monday morning.

The resolution regarding vaccination of certain domestic animals replaced one adopted Dec. 30, 2013. Instead of requiring “annual” vaccinations, it now requires they be “current” for dogs, cats, ferrets and horses. In addition, observation and testing for animals suspected of rabies is more thoroughly covered.

“We’ve been working on this for quite some time,” Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said. “Just countless hours have been put into this resolution.”

It has been a long process and county officials have participated in several discussions and meetings, Schneider said. They also sought input from veterinarians and the public. 

“Public health and animal medicine intersect frequently,” she said. “This is one of those intersections where we have to work together as a community to keep our community safe.”

The reason for the wording change stems from the different vaccines out there, some require annual shots while others last more than one year. “Different veterinarians use different vaccines,” she said.

“We thought it wise to let the veterinarians take care of animal health since they are the experts,” she said. Then, her office will follow the most current state disease investigation guidelines available from the Kansas Health of Health and Environment.

By state statute, the Health Department is the point agency for disease investigation and rabies falls under that, she said. 

Basically, Schneider said, her department works as a liaison between vets and human docs. She will also partner with animal control officers and human societies in the county, and the Sheriff’s Office when they conduct investigations. 

The violations of the resolution have stayed the same, she said. A violation remains a class B misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine if the animal is not current, and this is dependant on each animal, jurisdiction and vet.

“I feel that we have reached a very positive resolution for all involved,” Schneider said.

A gold standard

“We’ve spent so much time on this and it’s such a good compromise” between the county, vets and pet owners, commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. “But, what we actually did was change one word from ‘annual’ to ‘current.’”

They look back and wonder why that took so long, she said. “But, we had a lot of good public input for this.”

It makes sense for Barton County to be up to date, Schartz said. “The county is not in the business of knowing what animal gets what type of vaccination or whether they’re current.”

“Barton County has for years been considered the gold standard of rabies disease investigation,” Schneider said. “A lot of counties call us and ask how our resolution reads.”

Last week, she said her department handled 12 new bite investigations. Each of these involves many hours from many agencies that work well together.

Again, she said, the county can take pride in its resolution.

Schartz also noted that pet owners may want to talk to their vets about what vaccines they are using to know what it takes for their animals to remain current.

Schneider stressed the county is not responsible for registering animals. That is a job handled by the cities, and they will be informed of the changes to they can adopt their ordinances accordingly.