As previously described, NJ bill A1219 would require veterinarians or health officials to notify known pet owners prior to rabies testing of the deceased pet, which currently involves decapitation to provide maximum protection to laboratory professionals conducting such testing.  The bill was conditionally vetoed by the Governor, who has proposed reasonable amendments regarding such notification to “ensure that pet owners are properly informed of the protocols associated with the process [of post-partum rabies testing] in order to minimize this trauma” while also enabling rabies testing where necessary to protect public health when reasonable notification methods were not successful or the testing was not approved.

Notably, pet owners can avoid most situations that would require rabies testing of their beloved pets by taking the following steps:

  1. Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination status current and up to date;
  2. Provide accurate identification of your pet with redundant methods wherever possible, including:
    1. a valid rabies tag;
    2. an identification tag attached to the collar with the pet owner’s accurate contact information;
    3. a functional microchip which is registered with the microchip company, veterinarian, and local municipality with the owner’s contact information; and
  3. Do not let your pet wander off property unleashed or unattended.

Since accidents do happen, even with those pet owners who would not knowingly allow their pet off-leash or off their property, redundant methods of identification can help animal health officials and veterinarians to promptly locate a pet’s owner and to obtain any needed approval for necessary health treatment or testing.

The proposed amendments to this bill provide for the proper balance between pet owner’s rights and public health, as stated in the Conditional Veto,

In order to properly balance the goals of this bill with the health and safety of our communities, I am recommending modest revisions to allow a health official or veterinarian to proceed with rabies testing in the absence of written acknowledgment from the owner if reasonable and documented attempts to contact the owner and obtain a signature are unsuccessful.

Hopefully, these amendments will be adopted so the bill can be finally approved.