On the politics of 'rabies tags' and pet licensing (Part 2: The vet police)

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: October 01, 2010
Published: September 30, 2009
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I’m not deputized as an officer of the law and I’m no trained tax collector. I have no desire play either role in the normal course of my veterinary life. And yet I’m effectively enjoined to act as de facto dog police multiple times every day as I explain pet license policies and procedures to my confused clients.

It earns me no money––and definitely no friends––but it wouldn’t do to leave my clients in the dark on this issue. Not when the fines for license laxity can extend to liens on your house in my municipality.

Then there’s the fact that veterinarians in my area are compelled by competition, historical expectations and infrastructure limitations to act as the County’s tag agency.

Though we do have the opportunity to opt out of this role, doing so means that our clients must drive to the one and only non-veterinary tag outlet for tags in the entire [large] county (in an industrial location, to boot). Since every veterinary hospital has always been expected to serve this function, it would enrage our clients if we suddenly refused to offer tags and forced them to go elsewhere.

Moreover, declining to serve as a tag agency would greatly diminish the license-based revenues for municipalities like mine. What would happen to our license-funded shelter? I shudder to think.

But our municipalities, so underfunded as many of them are, have a way of making things worse for everyone involved––themselves included:

Every few months yet another slice of my client pie is treated to a slew of nastygrams. The municipality-originating missives arrive in the mailbox with tidings of $60 to $180 fines. These are usually geared to the clients whose tag purchases came late that year. But sometimes they’re not. The messy database system at Miami-Dade County is such that even on-timers get cited every once in a while.

This year things got even worse: All my patients whose regularly scheduled rabies vaccines were deemed “not in best interest” (whether because they were ill, ancient or had suffered previous vaccine reactions) also received citations.

Here’s where I get angry––extra-angry. It’s not enough that I have to explain the law, deal with client complaints and help resolve these issues. I now have to explain to the powers-that-be that they cannot require vaccines in unwell animals.

It’s infuriating––enough to make my blood boil and make me want to fraudulently send the County death certificates in lieu of license fees (that’s one way to opt out once you’ve entered the system).

Want to know how much veterinarians loathe the system? Consider that at a recent veterinary meeting I happened to ask how many of those present licensed their own pets. One hand was raised. And she had just moved to the area. Figures.


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