King County veterinarians challenge proposal on reporting rabies vaccinations

by: Chris Legeros Updated:

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SEATTLE - Dr. Mike Bellinghausen operates a veterinary hospital in Kenmore. He doesn’t like a proposal from King County that would require him to hand over the names, addresses and phone numbers of pet owners every time he gives a rabies vaccine.

Bellinghausen said, “I don’t think veterinarians in general should be providing our clients’ personal information to the county.”

King County would use the information not just to keep track of how many pets are vaccinated, but to cross-check the data to see who's buying pet licenses and who's not.  

It costs $30 for a spayed or neutered pet, $60 if they aren't altered (the vaccine? or the license?). Bellinghausen believes that sharing of personal information might scare potential clients away.  

He said, “We feel like it’s a very uncomfortable position that we’re being put into.”

King County said the same system is working well in other states and there are no HIPPA laws protecting the privacy of pets.  

Cameron Satterfield speaks for Regional Animal Services of King County.  

He said, “This is really focused on public health and public safety.”  

Satterfield said if an animal attacks a person, the county needs to know quickly if that dog or cat has been vaccinated.  

He also said money is an issue.  

Right now only one in five pet owners are buying pet licenses in King County.

That's not enough to completely fund the animal care and control program. Money from the county general fund is being used to fill the budget gap.

Satterfield said, “If you doubled the licensing rate from what we have now, it would be a self-sustaining service.” 

Veterinarians said they don't need a new law. They believe what’s needed is more programs to educate pet owners about licensing.

Both sides are meeting and trying to work out a compromise.