BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                                 SENATE HEALTH
                               COMMITTEE ANALYSIS
                        Senator Elaine K. Alquist, Chair


          BILL NO:       AB 2689                                      
          A
          AUTHOR:        Smyth                                        
          B
          AMENDED:       April 22, 2010                              
          HEARING DATE:  June 9, 2010                                 
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          CONSULTANT:                                                 
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          Orr/cjt                                                     
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                                     SUBJECT
                                         
                              Rabies vaccinations

                                     SUMMARY  

          Authorizes cities and counties to specify the means by  
          which a dog owner is required to provide proof of his or  
          her dog's rabies vaccination, including but not limited to  
          electronic transmission or facsimile.

                             CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW  

          Existing federal regulations:
          Require a valid rabies vaccination for dogs 12 weeks of age  
          and older that are imported to the United States from  
          countries where canine rabies is present, with certain  
          exceptions. 

          Existing state law:
          Requires every dog owner, after the dog attains the age of  
          four months, to obtain a license for the dog no less than  
          once every two years, and to vaccinate the dog against  
          rabies not more often than once per year.

          Requires the governing body of each city, county, or city  
                                                         Continued---



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          and county to maintain or provide for the maintenance of a  
          pound system and a rabies control program.  Establishes  
          that fees for dog licensure be fixed by the city, county,  
          or city and county. Authorizes the governing body to  
          impound any dogs found to be in violation of these  
          provisions and any additional provisions the governing body  
          prescribes. Declares the responsibility of the governing  
          body to provide or arrange for the provision of dog  
          vaccination clinics. 

          Authorizes the Department of Public Health (DPH) to  
          investigate reported cases of rabies in any county or city,  
          and declare a quarantine against designated animals if the  
          department finds that rabies exists. The department may  
          issue regulations as a substitute for a quarantine order,  
          when appropriate.

          Establishes that any person who willfully conceals  
          information about the location or ownership of an animal  
          subject to rabies that has exposed a person to rabies with  
          the intent to prevent the quarantine or isolation of that  
          animal by the local health officer is guilty of a  
          misdemeanor.

          Defines "rabies area" to mean any area within a region  
          where the existence of rabies constitutes a public health  
          hazard. 

          Existing regulations
          Require that dogs be revaccinated one year after their  
          primary immunization. Defines primary immunization as the  
          initial inoculation of an approved canine rabies vaccine  
          administered to young dogs between the ages of four and  
          twelve months. Dogs receiving a vaccination after the  
          primary immunization, and any dog receiving its initial  
          vaccination at over twelve months of age are required to be  
          revaccinated at least once every three years.

          Require that dogs be licensed no later than 60 days after  
          the expiration of the previously issued license. Prohibits  
          a dog license from being issued for a period beyond the  
          dog's revaccination due date, with specified exceptions.  
          Local authorities may require revaccination prior to  
          issuance of a license provided that revaccination does not  
          occur prior to specified times.




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          Establish various requirements for vaccination  
          certificates, including a requirement that certificates  
          bear the signature of the veterinarian administering the  
          vaccine and a requirement that the certificate be stamped,  
          printed or typed with the specified identifying information  
          of the veterinarian. Dog vaccination clinics conducted in  
          accordance with statutes may use vaccination certificates  
          approved by the public health officer, as long as the  
          clinic is identified on the certificate and specified  
          records are maintained. 

          Establish that the local health officer is to be notified  
          when a person is bitten by an animal of a species subject  
          to rabies within a rabies area. Establishes standards for  
          the isolation and strict confinement of any rabid animal or  
          animal that is suspected to be rabid. Allows the local  
          health officer discretion to isolate any animal which bites  
          or otherwise exposes a person to rabies for a specified  
          length of time.

          This bill:
          Authorizes the responsible city, county, or city and county  
          to specify the means by which the dog owner is required to  
          provide proof of his or her dog's rabies vaccination,  
          including but not limited to electronic transmission or  
          facsimile.
          
                                  FISCAL IMPACT  

          This bill is keyed non-fiscal. 

                            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION  

          This bill seeks to remove the requirement that rabies  
          certificates include an original signature by the  
          inoculating veterinarian in order to be valid, and instead  
          allows licensing agencies to establish methods of verifying  
          rabies vaccinations using modern communication and  
          technology, including via email and facsimile. The  
          verification process would need to be agreed upon through  
          collaboration with public health and state veterinary  
          agencies. 

          The sponsor of this bill, the City of Los Angeles, claims  




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          that local health officials cannot force nor ensure that  
          veterinarians sign rabies forms for all owners who have  
          their dogs vaccinated, and many owners do not know that  
          they must obtain the veterinarian's signature for the  
          certificate to be considered valid. In addition, the  
          documents that the owners submit to their governing body to  
          verify their dog's rabies status can take a variety of  
          forms (anything from a form to a receipt) and can be  
          readily falsified with modern printers and computers.  
          Because owners submit information separately from the  
          veterinarians, and the owners' information is often  
          incomplete due to the missing veterinarian signature, the  
          sponsor claims that limited available resources are focused  
          on simply matching up submitted forms from owners with  
          reported records from veterinarians.  The sponsor believes  
          that resources could be better spent on processing more  
          certificates and auditing forms to ensure validity of the  
          information instead. 

          The sponsor estimates that there are over 300,000 dogs in  
          the City of Los Angeles.  The sponsor also notes an  
          increasing number of imported dogs, and the potential for  
          those dogs to be carriers of the rabies virus. While the  
          city has created an online application for licensing,  
          they've found that the process is not helpful to dog owners  
          because if the rabies certificate is expired, the owners  
          can only obtain a new license or renew an existing license  
          by mailing in a separate written form. The sponsor believes  
          that by removing the additional paperwork requirements for  
          owners, more owners would complete the licensing process.   
          By focusing limited resources on verification instead of  
          paperwork, they believe this bill will increase licensing  
          compliance and licensing revenue, and improve rabies  
          compliance by dog owners. 

          Rabies 
          Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous  
          system and causes acute inflammation of the brain.  Rabies  
          is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is  
          not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms. In  
          California, most cases of rabies occur in skunks and bats,  
          however, any mammal can contract rabies. Domestic animals  
          account for three percent of animal rabies, and the rest  
          occurs in a variety of wild animals.  Rabies can be  
          prevented by vaccination.  




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          Human rabies is rare in the United States. The virus is  
          generally passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal.   
          The majority of human cases in the U.S. are caused by rabid  
          bats. Although uncommon, human rabies retains its public  
          health significance because of the lethality of human  
          infections.  

          The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) received  
          reports of 1,747 animal rabies cases from 2001 through  
          2008. During that time, reported animal cases decreased in  
          California by 44.5 percent. Among animal rabies cases, the  
          most frequently reported species were bats (73.0 percent),  
          skunks (23.5 percent), foxes (2.3 percent), and cats (0.6  
          percent). According to the "Epidemiologic Summary of Animal  
          and Human Rabies in California, 2001 - 2008, Key Findings  
          and Public Health Messages" the department found that  
          appropriate domestic and wild animal management, animal  
          vaccination programs, public health and medical management  
          of persons exposed to potentially rabid animals, public  
          education about animal risk reduction strategies, and  
          avoiding wild animal contact apparently provide the best  
          opportunities for reducing rabies in humans and animals. 

          The impact of imported pets on public health 
          While canine rabies is well-controlled in the United  
          States, among other parts of the world, rabies dog bites  
          cause over 50,000 deaths a year. Although the United States  
          has successfully eliminated canine rabies variants from  
          domestic circulation, introduction of foreign canine rabies  
          virus variants via imported dogs threatens this status.  
          Rabies is of particular concern in imported dogs because of  
          its long incubation period; on average, clinical disease  
          develops four to eight weeks after infection. Because of  
          this, dogs may be admitted to the country on the basis of  
          apparent good health, but could be incubating the virus and  
          develop disease after entry. 

          Although there are no accurate surveillance data on the  
          number of dogs imported each year, it is estimated that  
          over 287,000 dogs were imported into the U.S. during 2006.  
          Reports of unvaccinated dogs being imported into California  
          allegedly increased by over 500 percent during the period  
          2001 to 2006.  Some of these increases may be explained by  
          the apparent recent expansion in a high-volume  




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          international commercial puppy trade. Breeders overseas and  
          across borders ship puppies to the United States for sale  
          through commercial pet stores, flea markets, and internet  
          trading sites. Consumer demand for puppies under four  
          months of age results in some animals being sold before the  
          end of the required vaccination confinement period.

          Federal regulations currently require proof of valid rabies  
          vaccination for imported dogs, but allow the importation of  
          some unvaccinated dogs, including dogs less than three  
          months of age, provided certain requirements for  
          confinement are met until the dog is vaccinated. The  
          regulation does not require a health screen for these dogs  
          prior to arrival in the U.S., nor does it require treatment  
          for ticks or evaluation for specific zoonosis of concern.  
          Importers are expected to appropriately confine and  
          vaccinate imported dogs that lack valid rabies vaccination.  
           Enforcement of this regulation is problematic because  
          there is no federal requirement, mechanism, or capacity for  
          documenting compliance. 

          The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have  
          stated that zoonotic diseases -those that transfer from  
          animals to humans- account for three-quarters of all  
          emerging infectious threats.  Five of the six diseases the  
          agency regards as top threats to national security are  
          zoonotic. 
          
          Rabies control in California 
          The primary components of the California Rabies Control  
          Program include companion animal immunization and  
          licensing; stray animal control; animal bite reporting,  
          investigation, and animal isolation; and public education.  
          The program works to control stray domestic animals and  
          follow up on potential human exposures. The program also  
          keeps track of animal rabies throughout the state. Existing  
          statutes require vaccination and licensing of all dogs, but  
          because cats are the most frequently reported rabid  
          domestic animal in the U.S., vaccination of all cats is  
          also strongly advised. There are vaccines for other  
          domestic animals as well.

          The California Health and Safety Code mandates that the  
          governing body of each city, county, or city and county  
          maintain or provide a rabies control shelter system and a  




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          local rabies control program. Rabies control programs must  
          be implemented to include an animal shelter system, animal  
          bite reporting and investigations, stray animal control,  
          animal rabies case investigation, quarantine of biting dogs  
          and cats, quarantine of domestic animals potentially  
          exposed to rabies, and other activities for the purpose of  
          carrying out and enforcing the provisions of the California  
          Rabies Control Program. The county and/or city shall also  
          provide or arrange for canine rabies vaccination clinics.  
          All counties within the state of California are declared  
          "rabies areas" due to the ongoing cycles of rabies in  
          California's wildlife, and the resulting threat of exposure  
          to domestic animals, livestock and humans. 

          Related bills
          AB 2000 (Hagman) exempts from vaccination requirements the  
          owner of a dog, that a licensed veterinarian has determined  
          has a compromised immune system or pre-existing condition,  
          which renders the vaccine dangerous to the animal's health.  
          Pending in the Senate Health Committee. 

          AB 2411 (Jones) defines "pet insurance" as a separate line  
          of insurance, and establishes new regulatory requirements  
          for the sale of pet insurance products. Pending in the  
          Senate.
          
          Prior legislation
          AB 1634 (Levine) of 2007 would have enacted the California  
          Responsible Pet Ownership Act and provided that a person  
          who owns a dog or cat that is not licensed (or is  
          improperly licensed) and that has not been spayed or  
          neutered may be cited and, if cited, must pay civil  
          penalties.  It also increases existing fines for nonspayed  
          or unneutered dogs and cats. Requires microchipping of the  
          animal for a second occurrence for which the owner will  
          have to pay the cost of the microchip procedure, as  
          specified. Failed passage on the Senate Floor.

          AB 647 (Koretz) of 2005 would have removed domestic ferrets  
          from the list of wild animals that are unlawful to import,  
          transport, possess, or release into this state 
          if the owner of the ferret produced and maintained  
          documentation that the ferret has been vaccinated against  
          rabies and that the ferret, if over the age of six months,  
          is spayed or neutered. The bill specified that any ferret  




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          that is sold or offered for sale is required to be spayed  
          or neutered before the sale, and permitted local animal  
          control agencies to enforce these provisions. Held in the  
          Senate Appropriations Committee. 

          SB 861 (Speier) Chapter 668, Statutes of 2005,  authorizes  
          local governments to enact dog breed-specific ordinances  
          pertaining only to mandatory spay or neuter programs and  
          breeding requirements, provided that no specific dog breed,  
          or mixed dog breed, shall be declared potentially dangerous  
          or vicious under those ordinances. This bill requires those  
          jurisdictions that do implement such programs to provide  
          quarterly statistical reports relating to dog bites to the  
          State Public Health Veterinarian, as specified. 

          Arguments in support
          The sponsor of the bill, the City of Los Angeles, claims  
          this bill is a technical measure to modernize state  
          statutes and bring the dog licensing process into the 21st  
          century. By making on-line dog licensing feasible, the city  
          believes more dogs will be licensed. The city also believes  
          that by replacing hand-processing with the efficiency of  
          modern technology, license issuers will realize much-needed  
          cost savings. They claim that this bill would more than  
          double their productivity, and could result in an increase  
          of 40,000 additional licenses being processed annually. 

          The city states that most jurisdictions are lucky if they  
          are able to license 20 to 40 percent of the dogs who live  
          in their jurisdictions. The city claims that streamlining  
          procedures through online licensing will increase those  
          numbers, which they believe will ensure more vaccinations  
          and also enable more lost dogs to be reunited with their  
          families, which should reduce the cost of animal  
          sheltering. 


                                  PRIOR ACTIONS

           Assembly Local Government 9-0  
          Assembly Floor      74-0
               

                                    COMMENTS





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           1.  Is this bill necessary?  Existing regulations do not  
          expressly exclude electronic transmission of information,  
          and seem to provide DPH with the authority to allow this  
          already. CA Code of Regulations, Title 17, Section 2606.4  
          requires that, within officially declared rabies areas,  
          certificates bear "the signature of the veterinarian  
          administering the vaccine or a signature authorized by  
          him?" which could be interpreted to allow for electronic  
          signatures. The regulation further states that the  
          certificate be "stamped, printed, or typed" with the name,  
          address and phone number of the veterinarian for  
          legibility, which also does not seem to exclude the ability  
          to type electronically.

          2.  Impact of bill may be limited.  It is not clear that  
          this bill will result in increased rabies vaccination rates  
          and/or dog licensing rates; nor is it clear that electronic  
          processing will lead to an increase in enforcement of the  
          vaccination requirement by all governing bodies. It is also  
          not clear if any other cities or counties besides Los  
          Angeles and a few larger locales like San Diego and Orange  
          County will have the capacity to process these certificates  
          electronically.
                                         
                                   POSITIONS  
                                        
          Support:   City of Los Angeles (sponsor)
                     Actors and Others for Animals
                     Animal Issues Movement
                     Concerned Dog Owners of California
                 English Shepherd Club
                 Humane Society of the United States
                 Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
                 League of California Cities
                 Lost Coast Kennel Club of California
                 Save Our Dogs

          Oppose:  None received
                                   -- END --