A bill in New Jersey that would have interfered with rabies testing of domestic companion animals has been amended to remove the potentially dangerous and unneeded obstacles to timely testing.

The bill, A1219, requires notification to a pet owner from a health official or veterinarian before an animal is prepared for rabies testing or submitted to a qualified laboratory for such testing.  That notification, both verbally and in writing, must include:

 (1) the necessity of the rabies testing and the reasons therefor;

(2) the rabies testing protocol to be followed;

(3) the protocol to be followed with regard to the handling of the  animal’s body;

(4) the protocol to be followed with regard to the disposal of the animal’s body or its return to the owner; and

(5) the protocol of decapitation.

These requirements only apply if the owner of the animal is known.

The owner must then “release the animal to the health official or veterinarian, as applicable, for the rabies testing” and sign an acknowledgement that the owner has been duly notified.

Which begs the question – what happens if the owner refuses to release the animal for testing or refuses to sign the form?  The only remedy for failure for an owner to comply resides in a different statute, also amended in this bill.

That provision provides liability (a fine) for any person who violates the laws that authorizes local boards of health to protect residents against communicable diseases, including rabies.

So, the only amendment to existing law that would result if this bill is enacted, is a requirement for a verbal and written notification to an animal owner, if known, about why a rabies test is required and how it will be conducted.

If such notification would help pet owners cope if their pet had to be tested, as determined by health officials, that would be a good result.

A better result would be for all pet owners to make sure that their pets are properly vaccinated against rabies—a nearly 100% fatal disease.