Dubuque County rabies vaccination rate at risk? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque County rabies vaccination rate at risk?

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Part of a Dubuque County ordinance regarding pet licensing is newly effective this year.

The Vicious Animal Control and Rabies Ordinance of Dubuque County was last amended July of 2008. Part of it, however, was not strictly enforced until Jan. 1, 2012.

Iowa requires any dog or pet cat over three months old to be vaccinated for rabies. Now, with the newly-enforced part of the ordinance, pet owners must also license their pets when taking them in to get the rabies vaccine, and licenses, of course, cost money.

Dubuque county supervisor Eric Manternach said Thursday, the full enforcement of the ordinance is "beneficial to the county."

He said tying pet licensing in with the required rabies shot will help offset the cost of bringing stray animals from the county to the Dubuque Regional Humane Society (DRHS).

"We get charged over $100 per animal," at the DRHS, Manternach said, "and sometimes people bring in five cats at a time and don't realize it's costing the county over $500."

The humane society's president and CEO, Jane McCall, said, "Each year we take in around 350 stray animals from the county, so dogs, cats, puppies, kittens."

The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors budgets around $30,000 every year to pay for the county's stray animals that come to the DRHS.

"If that money runs out," Manternach said, "which we've never had enough, we have to mend into the budget more money to pay for it."

The annual cost of a pet license is $12 for animals that are spayed or neutered and $30 for animals that are not.

Dr. Richard Fairley is chair of the Dubuque County Board of Health. He said county veterinarians are concerned the licensing cost could deter some folks from getting their animals the rabies vaccine.

"Many of the residents in the county have multiple dogs and multiple cats, and when that's multiplied by that licensure rate, that is a pretty significant financial burden to a lot of county residents," he said, adding that people might be especially hesitant to pay the licensure fee if they're still suffering from tough economic times.

"I guess you hope people are responsible enough to know that their animals do need to be vaccinated, you know, for safety reasons," Manternach said.

Currently, the money paid for stray animal fees comes from taxpayer dollars.

The Dubuque County Board of Health is currently seeking input on the ordinance from county veterinarians. Board members will then bring recommended changes to county supervisors.

The City of Dubuque follows similar guidelines for its licensing fees. However, its ordinance - and the ordinances of other cities in Dubuque County - are separate from the county's ordinance.

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