One of the interesting problems that we encounter is the anti-vaccination folks. We have laws and policies that require that animals be vaccinated for rabies, but the owner refuses to vaccinate their pet. It becomes problematic when the animal is impounded for running at large and ordinances demand that the animal is licensed at the time the animal is reclaimed; of course, pet licensing requires that the animal is vaccinated for rabies.
Many shelters have vaccination protocols that provide for animals to be given combo vaccinations upon their intake. You can imagine the hysterical pet owners when they are told that their pet was vaccinated without their approval and worse, that they cannot reclaim their pet unless it is further vaccinated for the license.
Many ordinances allow for waiving the rabies vaccination if a veterinarian writes a note that the animal’s health would be jeopardized if vaccinated, but their is no provision for people who are on the anti- vaccination bandwagon.
I have found that their are several ways to deal with these owners: allow the owner sufficient time to take you to court to have the courts overrule the ordinance; or, let the stray hold time run out and the animal becomes your animal to deal with; or, vaccinate the animal without the owner’s knowledge; or, return the animal to the owner unvaccinated and issue a citation for an unvaccinated pet and ask for a mandatory hearing.
Allowing the owner to take the lead to take you to court will probably end up with a lengthy stay of the animal in an already crowded animal shelter. Pet owners will tend to be slow in dealing with the courts and the case will usually end up with such large boarding fees that the owner eventually abandons the pet.
Allowing the stray hold time run out is a good option, as long as the pet owner understands that time is of the essence. Be prepared to give an extension of the holding period; I would encourage requiring that the owner prepay boarding fees when extensions are sought.
I always like to be open and honest with a pet owner and would not ordinarily do anything to an owner’s pet without their approval. But, we live in a world of mentally unhealthy people who are not able to make sound decisions, so I leave it as an option.
Issuing the citation to the pet’s owner is a good solution, providing that your court process allows for mandatory hearings. The order to vaccinate a pet is better heard if presented by a judge. The pet owner would have to face jail time if he or she decided to violate a court order.
Given the number of animals that get sick in our shelters due to the lack of vaccinations by their owners, you would think that vaccinations would be provided as part of being a responsible pet owner. But, you have to remember that we have jobs in this field because many people do not come by being responsible freely.