New Jersey bills S3551 and A5040 would require a vaccination schedule that is inconsistent with veterinary recommendations.
For example, the bills would require that “if the animal is a dog, [it] has received its first parvo and distemper vaccines and at least one booster, and the dog’s rabies inoculations are up to date.”
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and consistent with existing state laws “A single dose of rabies vaccine [should be administered] NOT EARLIER THAN 3 MO OF AGE.” Earlier vaccination may be ineffective because of maternal immunity passed to the puppies.
AAHA also recommends vaccination against parvovirus and distemper virus beginning as early as 6 weeks of age, but booster shots should be administered at an interval of 2 to 4 wk until at least 16 wk of age.” The bills would delay placement of an animal by requiring that it receive a booster before sale or adoption. Since exposure to infectious diseases increases with the time each puppy or dog remains at a shelter or rescue facility, such a delay could increase, not decrease, the risk to animal health.
Rocky’s law would also require behavioral testing and reporting of historical behavioral abnormalities of animals before sale or adoption. An animal’s behavior is an important factor for an owner to consider and certainly any history of behavioral abnormalities, including aggression, should be recorded and reported. Pets are often relinquished to a shelter or another home because of behavioral issues. Equally important is the prevalence of dog bites in this country as reported by the AVMA.
Dog bites pose a serious health risk to our communities and society. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At least half of those bitten are children. Here are more dog bite facts:
Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention.
Children are by far the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.
Any dog can bite: big or small, male or female, young or old. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Remember, it is not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s individual history and behavior.
There are several resources available for the evaluation of a dog’s temperament.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), describes the importance of socialization of puppies by owners:
‘Puppies go through a sensitive period of socialization when they are uniquely prepared to benefit from exposure to social opportunities. From the time the owner adopts the puppy until 3 to 4 months of age, it is critical that the owner get the puppy out to meet other animals and people, and experience many different kinds of environments,’ said [former] AAVSAB president, Dr. E. Kathryn Meyer.
Unsocialized puppies may also fail to develop coping mechanisms and grow up into dogs that are unable to adapt to new situations. This can severely inhibit the dog’s quality of life as well as the owner’s enjoyment of the pet,
The American Kennel Club and the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. also have programs for testing dog behavior.
Once the pet leaves the pet shop, rescue or shelter, any subsequent behavior may have nothing to do with its care at these facilities. Behavioral abnormalities, including aggression may have resulted from the care (or lack thereof) the animal had received from its owner. The pet shop, rescue or shelter should not be liable for such subsequent behavior if there was no indication that the pet was predisposed to or had no history of such behavior.
These bills have promise, but require considerable amendments to protect animal health and welfare and the people and business who buy and sell them.