No more fines: Rabies vaccination program fallout continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shelby County chief deputy district attorney Bill Bostic confirmed last week that his office will not prosecute rabies cases in the county that were brought forth by a door-to-door inspection program that folded last month.

Bostic also said that the program, which was conducted by Rabies Control owner Dr. James Green, no longer had the right to collect fees and fines from residents who did not have their pets vaccinated.

The door-to-door verification program, which began in 2005, came under fire earlier this year for alleged violations of personal privacy. The program was suspended last month after an investigation into the claims by county health officials.

Green said he believes he is correct in continuing to collect on fines that his company issued before the door-to-door program was shut down.

&8220;We have to see these cases through,&8221; Green said. &8220;This will be the second and third warning for a number of these people.&8221;

Green did confirm that no more inspections have been conducted by his company since the program was derailed.

Local veterinarian Becky Senicz, who oversaw rabies prevention in Shelby County for the state health department, resigned her post last month. Senicz cited a lack of concern for the rabies problem in the county and a lack of effort by the county D.A.&8217;s office for prosecuting offenders.

&8220;I have had very little indication of interest in protecting the citizens of this county against rabies,&8221; Senicz wrote in her letter of resignation. &8220;At least on the part of the local district attorney&8217;s office, the sheriff&8217;s office, a majority of governing officials and the Shelby County Health Department itself.&8221;

Senicz also said she could not continue to work without the support of local officials.

&8220;I find myself unable to justify serving in the position or to call myself doing my job properly when prohibited from taking the necessary steps to do so,&8221; she said. &8220;There are unfortunately, a number of our citizens who will not have their animals vaccinated unless they are forced to do so.&8221;

A number of rabid animals have been found in Shelby County over the past few years, including a bat that was found near a playground at Inverness Elementary school two weeks ago.

County health officials have not announced a replacement for the defunct door-to-door program