Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture will hold a public hearing on Aug. 22 on a proposed set of regulations that would require pet stores, animal shelters, petting zoos, riding stables and other entities to keep a log of the names and contact information of anyone who visits their location and handles an animal not yet vaccinated for rabies, including kittens and puppies too young for the shot.
Under the proposal, all animals held in a public setting “for which there is a licensed rabies vaccine” would be required to receive the vaccine unless they are under the minimum age (3 months old for dogs and cats in Conn.) or held in a city pound.
A public setting is defined as “any event, facility or premise at which the public is invited or allowed to have direct physical contact with animals.”
The regulation is nothing new, says Dr. Bruce Sherman, a former veterinarian and the Dept. of Agriculture’s director for the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection. It’s been on the books for a while, as recently as three years ago, as part of the state’s Emergency Order Concerning the Vaccination or Alternative Confinement of Certain Animals to prevent the transmission of rabies. That order, however, is no longer valid, and the state determined it needed a new regulation to enforce its rabies-prevention mandate, Sherman said.
The emergency order was prompted by a 1993 incident in which about 70 people were exposed to a pony with rabies in Windsor, Conn.
A background paper on the new rabies proposal cites three incidents in nearby states as evidence of preventable, expensive tragedies, including a rabid goat at a county fair in New York which 25,000 people visited.
The proposal further stipulates that if the names of people coming in contact with the unvaccinated animals cannot be recorded, the animal must be separated from the public by a barrier, such as Plexiglas or a double-fence. In addition, the proprietor would be required to post a sign reading, “Connecticut Rabies Advisory Notice – Do Not Feed or Touch Animals.”
The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Assn. says it strongly supports the legislation. In its submitted testimony, the association wrote, “The effect of the proposed measures create ‘distance’ between animals and people, which is a highly effective, and cost effective, manner with which to accomplish the objective. The CVMA strongly supports these measures and agrees with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's approach.”
Non-mammals are exempt from the proposal. Many of the popular small animal pets would also be exempt if it could be proven that the individual was “born and continuously raised or kept indoors.” This includes hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats and mice.
All other warm-blooded animals would fall under the new rule.
The public hearing is open to everyone. It is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in room 126 of the State Office Building in Hartford on Capitol Avenue.