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IOWA Rabies Waiver Bill ACTION ALERT

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IOWA Rabies Waiver Bill HF2124 ACTION ALERT: Iowa Rep. Marti Anderson has filed a rabies medical exemption bill, HF 2124, and it has been assigned to the Agriculture Committee.. Please contact Agriculture Chair, Pat Grassley pat.grassley@legis.iowa.gov (515) 281-3221 & Agriculture committee members (below) & ask them to support HF2124. Rabies Challenge Fund letter in support below. Bill Text: http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Legislation/85thGA/Bills/HouseFiles/Introduced/HF2124.html

House Agriculture Committee: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees/committee?ga=85&groupID=694

January 4, 2014


Representative Marti Anderson

House of Representatives HD36


RE: Rabies Medical Exemption for Iowa


Greetings Representative Anderson:


Iowa Code Title 9, Subtitle 1 Chapter 351 Section 351.33 requiring rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats does not contain a provision to exempt unhealthy animals whose veterinarians have determined their medical conditions should preclude vaccination.


The 18 states of Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin all have medical exemption clauses in their rabies laws, with Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett having just signed one into law on July 9, 2013.


Labels on rabies vaccines declare that they are for “the vaccination of healthy cats, [and] dogs,” because vaccinating an unhealthy animal may not produce the desired immunologic response. As Pfizer’s rabies vaccine labels warn: " 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…." Passage of a medical exemption clause would allow Iowa’s veterinarians to write waivers for animals whose lives would be jeopardized by or whose medical conditions would be exacerbated by vaccination, including those with past anaphylactic reactions to the rabies vaccine or those suffering from cancer, kidney/liver failure, hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, lymphoma, grand mal seizures, and chronic autoimmune disorders.


The American Animal Hospital Association advises veterinarians "...to avoid administration of any vaccine to patients with a history of systemic disease suspected to be associated with previous vaccination (e.g., immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia) or known to be caused by vaccine (vaccination-site cutaneous ischemic vasculitis after administration of rabies vaccine).” (1) They further recommend that “[d]ogs receiving immunosuppressive chemotherapy should not be vaccinated.” (2)


The State of Maine inserted the following medical exemption into their rabies protocol, Title 7 M.R.S.A., Sec. 3922(3), in April 2005:


“5 A. A letter of exemption from vaccination may be submitted for licensure, if a medical reason exists that precludes the vaccination of the dog. Qualifying letters must be in the form of a written statement, signed by a licensed veterinarian, that includes a description of the dog, and the medical reason that precludes vaccination. If the medical reason is temporary, the letter shall indicate a time of expiration of the exemption.


B. A dog exempted under the provisions of paragraph 5 A, above, shall be considered unvaccinated, for the purposes of 10-144 C.M.R. Ch.251, Section 7(B)(1), (Rules Governing Rabies Management) in the case of said dog's exposure to a confirmed or suspect rabid animal.”


Without a provision for medical waivers in Iowa Code Title 9, Subtitle 1 Chapter 351 Section 351.33, Iowa’s rabies immunization requirement poses an ethical dilemma for veterinarians with seriously ill patients -- they must either violate their Veterinarian’s Oath and administer a rabies vaccine conflicting with sound medical practice and contrary to manufacturer’s labeled instructions, or recommend that clients break the law by not immunizing their unhealthy pets. Additionally, veterinarians face potential liability for any adverse reactions suffered after administering a vaccine inconsistent with labeled directions when immunizing sick animals against rabies. Owners may choose not to comply with the law rather than risk their pets’ lives and subsequently fail to license them to avoid detection.


On behalf of The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust, veterinarian Franchesca Zenitsky, and other Iowa pet owners who have contacted us for assistance, we urge you to introduce legislation to insert a medical exemption clause into Chapter 351 Section 351.33 of the Iowa Code. Please contact me if you would like any scientific data on the rabies vaccine or have any questions.




Kris L. Christine

Founder, Co-Trustee


(1) American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force. 2011 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, Revised p. 21

(2) American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force. 2011 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, Revised p. 29

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I'm glad to hear they are finally trying to pass a rabies exemption in Iowa. I know several dogs including my Rose that are not vaccinated because they have health issues that cause the veterinarian to decline vaccinations. Luckily, despite living in Iowa, my local municipality accepted a letter stating that my dog could not be vaccinated and allowed her to get her "city license." I will not go into the bizarre rules requiring me to pay for my dog's existence but I guess it's one way for this tiny town to earn money. ;)


Bethany, Rose, and Loki

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I'm glad to hear they are finally trying to pass a rabies exemption in Iowa. ;)

PLEASE do send e-mails to the committee members, especially Grassley, Alons, Bearinger & Shaw asking them to support this bill. If this does not get an "ought to pass" vote from the House Agriculture Committee, it is dead in the water, so it is vital that this committee hear from the public now.


If you can ask all of your pet-owning friends & family in Iowa to do the same, it will help to get this important legislation passed more than you could ever imagine!

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