By RYAN PFEIL
Veterinarians in Jackson County now must report rabies vaccinations to the county’s Health and Human Services Department as part of an effort to ensure the animals are licensed — and that the county is paid for those licenses.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved the ordinance Wednesday. County officials said the move will boost in revenue through increased licensing fees and will give loose animals 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 and Control manager.
Licensing revenue accounts for about one-third of Animal Care and 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.
Wednesday’s public hearing drew opposition to the ordinance.
Gail Colbern, of Green Springs Veterinary Service, said the ordinance will create a public health risk, saying she believes it will discourage pet owners from getting rabies shots for their animals. Colbern said she works in rural areas where the presence of rabies-carrying animals such as 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 also will hurt veterinarians in the county. 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.”
Under the ordinance, veterinarians must report the vaccinations within 60 days. If the county finds dogs on the vaccination list that are not licensed, officials will send a notification and license application to those owners. State law and a county ordinance require all dogs older than six months be licensed and vaccinated against rabies.
The ordinance goes into effect in 60 days.
Animal control officials said there are about 21,000 licensed dogs in the county, estimating that’s only about 40 percent of the total number of dogs.
County officials said the ordinance will be re-evaluated after a year.
Jackson Baures, manager for Jackson County Environmental Public Health, said that Lane, Klamath and Multnomah counties have similar ordinances. He said 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.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.